Saving Idaho's Salmon: A History of Failure and a Dubious Future

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Idaho Law Review

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Idaho L. Rev.


This article examines the reasons for the decline of Idaho's salmon runs, analyzes several ineffective past attempts at restoration, and evaluates a number of remaining options to prevent extinction of Idaho salmon. The article explains how and why, over a half-century, Idaho salmon have had eight major mainstem dams placed between their spawning grounds and the ocean and a deepwater port sited some 465 miles inland. Although there have been numerous restoration attempts over the years, those efforts has produced few spawning salmon. The article outlines several alternative means of restoring Idaho salmon, including measures under the Northwest Power Act, the Endangered Species Act, and Indian treaty fishing rights. It concludes by suggesting that any successful restoration strategy must include five elements: 1) recognition of both the links and disparaties between state water law and federal hydropower law; 2) assurance that state water law will not frustrate salmon restoration efforts; 3) use of the great flexibility of the hydroelectric system to improve salmon spawning and migration, 4) a presumption of biological needs over economic cost concerns; and 5) creative design of the Northwest's energy blueprint for the future so as to reduce the costs of achieving the region's salmon restoration objectives.

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