Idaho businesses are joining the fight to save wild salmon from extinction, with 119 business leaders from across the state signing a letter urging the state's congressional delegation to consider the economic benefits of dam removal.
"As you know, Idaho's economy—especially that of rural towns like Riggins, Salmon, Challis, and Orofino—can thrive with good salmon and steelhead fishing seasons," the letter, which included the signatures of six Ketchum businesses, states. "Recent studies have shown that restored fisheries could bring millions of dollars to Idaho annually. We are writing to enlist your help in making the federal government keep its promise of bringing back wild salmon and steelhead to sustainable, fishable levels for our businesses and families."
Utilizing data from a report titled "Revenue Stream," the letter asserts that removing the four lower Snake River dams would give salmon and steelhead an 80 percent chance of survival while saving Idaho $3 billion over the next 20 years.
"Revenue Stream" was compiled by a coalition of business organizations, Republicans for Environmental Protection, taxpayer advocates and conservation groups, including Idaho Rivers United. It was released last month.
"Over a 20-year time frame the costs of keeping the lower Snake dams—with virtually no chance of restoring Snake River wild salmon and steelhead—could cost about $17 billion," the letter states. Removing the dams would cost about $14 million over the same time, resulting in savings of $3 billion.
"In short, lower Snake River dam removal is a solution that can work for everyone, and it is a solution that Idaho's economy and businesses need," the letter states.
Salmon advocates claim the four lower Snake River dams present the greatest threat to Idaho's juvenile salmon, killing between 60 percent and 90 percent migrating to the Pacific Ocean every year.
The business leaders, ranging from fishing outfitters to restaurant owners to insurance agencies, also claim dam removal would create jobs, miles of riverside parks, cleaner water and healthier food services for Northwest families.
But will the letter, with only 119 signatures, make a difference?
"Well, as far as changing our congressional delegation's minds on salmon recovery, probably not," said Amanda Peacher, outreach coordinator for Idaho Rivers United, which initiated the letter process. "But more important we hope it encourages a larger discussion."
Peacher said the majority of businesses that signed the letter have worked with Idaho Rivers United in the past, and that more extensive outreach will take place in the future.
Ketchum businesses that signed the letter include Backwoods Mountain Sports, Tim Jeneson Insurance Agency Inc., Lost River Outfitters, Middle Fork LLC, Premier Resorts of Sun Valley, Daniel Hawley and H.S.R., and Mountain Angels Trading Co.