Army Corps Decision Against Dam Removal Could Cost Taxpayers Billions and Drive Salmon to Extinction

Army Corps Decision Against Dam Removal Could Cost Taxpayers Billions and Drive Salmon to Extinction

Feb 20, 2002  | 3 min read

Washington, D.C. – The US Army Corps of Engineers' decision not to remove the four dams on the Lower Snake River in eastern Washington could cost taxpayers billions and drive salmon to extinction, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a budget watchdog organization.

“The Corps' recommendation just promises more boat rides for fish and 'fish-friendly' turbines that don't make fiscal or scientific sense,” said Autumn Hanna, policy analyst for Taxpayers for Common Sense. “These technological fixes will not save salmon from extinction,” said Hanna.

Today's decision by the Army Corps of Engineers' proposes spending $390 million over the next 10 years to upgrade the dams. “This proposal is essentially a taxpayer-funded scheme to gold-plate the dams at a time when our country is experiencing a budget crunch,” said Hanna.

The Corps' decision to avoid dam removal continues the detrimental practice of barging and trucking fish around the dams that has proven to be an expensive failure. Northwest ratepayers and federal taxpayers have already spent more than $3.5 billion on salmon recovery efforts. Yet, the salmon could be pushed into extinction as early as 2016. In addition, taxpayers could be liable for billions to tens of billions of dollars in compensation payments to Columbia River Basin tribes if the fish are forced to extinction.

“Taxpayers could be on the hook for billions more if the fish go extinct, and the federal government violates treaties with the Columbia River tribes,” said Hanna.

“In the last five years, the Corps has spent $25 million of taxpayers' money on endless studies. Preserving this national treasure, especially when it will save taxpayers billions of dollars, makes dam removal the obvious choice,” said Hanna. “Out of four possible alternatives, the Corps is promoting the option that will guarantee their continued long-term involvement in Snake River salmon recovery, at considerable taxpayer expense.”

Several stocks of Lower Snake River salmon and steelhead are either already extinct or headed towards extinction. According to independent scientists, removing the four Lower Snake River dams is the best way to save the fish. Dam removal is not a “silver bullet” that will, by itself, solve the problem, but the cornerstone of a multi-faceted, long-term effort that has the best chance of success.

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There is vast public support for removing the dams, illustrated by more than 30 editorials and a national list of over 2,400 endorsing organizations. The endorsement drive, led by Taxpayers for Common Sense and several conservation organizations, illustrates support from hundreds of national and regional organizations, over 1200 Alaska commercial fishermen, businesses, Native American Tribes, scientists, and others from all 50 states and abroad. The list also includes prominent individuals such as singer-songwriter Carole King, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and actor Adam West.

Contact: Autumn Hanna autumn [at]