The idea of breaching the four lower Snake River dams has been around for decades. Fish biologists warned that they shouldn’t even be built, that they would eventually cause the extinction of salmon and steelhead. And the Army Corps of Engineers had a very difficult time proving that the dams would provide a positive cost:benefit ratio. Now with salmon abundance at lows not seen in decades, Southern Resident orca facing a food shortage, and BPA finally realizing they are in a serious budget crisis, the urgency to breach these four dams has never been greater.
The Army Corps must take a short time to update the 2002 EIS, then begin breaching Lower Granite Dam this fall. The dam removal sequence is Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and finally Ice Harbor.
responsibility and authority
The US Army Corps of Engineers has inherent fiduciary responsibilities to insure existing projects continue to provide economic benefit.
The dams have a Benefit to Cost ratio of 15¢ on the dollar (.15 to 1) in terms of National Economic Development, the standard by which the Corps must measure economic benefit.
The Corps can put the projects into a “non-operational” status. This does not change the project Purpose thus does not need Congressional Authorization.
Reference Policy Considerations
Breaching is far easier than originally planned, making it possible to move from a decision to breach…to breaching in a matter of months, not years.
Given the relative ease of hydraulically breaching an earthen embankment, there is no need for lengthy modeling, engineering, design or complicated/lengthy contracting.
Ever wondered what the term “breach” means? Here’s a quick animation that demonstrates each step. You’ll see that the dam infrastructure, the turbines, locks and the spillways remain in place. That’s what makes this method of restoring to a free flowing river so quick and relatively inexpensive.
© John Twa / Jim Waddell