Flathead Electric Co-op Should Look for Solutions on Snake River Dams

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, shows political courage to seek solutions to this problem

By Ben Long

Flathead Electric Coop has a right to its opinion about the Columbia Basin hydroelectric system. But FEC should not feed its members one-sided propaganda. 

We all appreciate affordable power. No one wants (or needs) to give that up. There are 30 dams on the Columbia and its mighty tributaries. We can afford to look honestly at four dams on the lower Snake. FEC’s talking points ignore key facts that members deserve to understand.

First is, the chinook and sockeye salmon and steelhead trout of Idaho are going extinct. The trend lines are clear, and the timeline is short. These fish have fed people for 20,000 years and can continue to feed people for thousands of years in the future if we simply let them spawn and get back to the ocean.

Imagine a healthy, high-value food source that does not require any economic in-puts. Imagine a farm or ranch with no need for plows, fertilizers, feed or veterinary bills. Just a crew and boat to harvest the crop. That is what the salmon represent. It’s a crime against the future to throw that away.

Second, there is the stubborn fact that treaties are the highest law of the land. America signed treaties with Native Americans to take ownership of the Pacific Northwest. The tribes received very little in return – just the rights to hunt and fish in their ancient traditions. America must live up to these agreements, even if it’s inconvenient.

For decades, we have wasted billions on failed half measures to get salmon around the lower Snake River dams. Pursuing those strategies is throwing good money after bad.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, shows political courage to seek solutions to this problem. FEC can stand back and throw stones, but I challenge them to be part of the solution.

Ben Long