Snake River Dams - Why they are There




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Published on Jan 31, 2012

This video was produced under the direction of the Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Office in Walla Walla with a focus on the commercial importance of the dams and efforts to preserve salmon runs. It is being shown in the wide screen theater at the Ice Harbor Dam visitor center. It is also used as an orientation film for new employees at the Corps Walla Walla District office, that manages the Lower Snake River. Note that the flood control value of the dams is questionable since the dams are "run of the river" dams with the primary purpose of electrical generation and barge transportation.

Over 200 years ago, Lewis & Clark traveled down the Snake River in pursuit of Thomas Jefferson's dream of a transcontinental water route. The dams on the Snake River are a result of that vision.

Today the entire Snake River is controlled by numerous dams including 4 Corps of Engineer Dams on the Lower Snake, starting with Ice Harbor Dam where the Snake enters the Columbia River. There is on-going controversy on how to manage the Lower Snake and some think the Lower Snake River dams should be removed to improve salmon migration. Because of very small elevation gain, the dams create stagnant pools of very warm water which is detrimental to salmon health.

Seemly off the table is the Hells Canyon complex of dams (managed by the State of Idaho), upstream from the confluence of the Snake and Salmon River. These dams completely block all fish migration to a large part of the State of Idaho.

The Corps does not have the authority to build or remove dams, a common public misconception. Congress authorizes this. The Corps is tasked with building dams for the purpose of transportation, flood control and power generation. While highly controversial, the dams could be removed by the Congress but no bill has been introduced to do so.


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