The national economic effects of breaching the Lower Snake River Dams
Author(s)Mosher, Benjamin R. (Benjamin Riel), 1976-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
David H. Marks.
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The four Lower Snake River Dams have been providing irrigation, recreation, navigation, and electricity generation capabilities to residents of the Northwest since their completion in 1975. Meanwhile, salmon populations have gradually been declining to the point that five species of Snake River salmon are now listed as endangered. In 1995, the NMFS released a report citing the Snake River Dams as potential contributors to this decline, sparking a national debate. The diversity of existing studies and opinions surrounding the debate, combined with the complexity of the issues, has created a need for clarification of the estimated costs and benefits of breaching the dams. Recognition of the source and context of all data and conclusions is essential to the formulation of a well-informed analysis. It is in this context that this report attempts to analyze the costs and benefits of breaching the four Lower Snake River Dams through the use of existing in-depth studies, as well as through first-hand data collected during a visit to the region. It is the goal of this report to summarize and clarify the major economic issues and to produce a non-biased analysis, which will aid in improvement of public understanding. In strictly considering the NED models of direct uses of the Lower Snake River Dams with no regards to the net worth of preserving salmon, dam breaching would cost the national economy and its taxpayers an estimated $236 million annually for the next 100 years. Taking into account the existence values of the five species of endangered salmon, the net economic benefit to the nations taxpayers would be $86 million annually. It is important to note that the uncertainties surrounding this controversy are substantial. With few exceptions, this analysis has shown that the USACE/DREW initiative has surpassed any other existing study of the issue to date in both breadth and insight. Numerous groups have attempted to discredit the regional data obtained from a process that they were, themselves, invited to partake in. In interpreting and skewing economic data as a means toward their ends, these groups have slighted the true argument surrounding the controversy, which could be more appropriately argued in a social context. Despite this seemingly unavoidable opposition, the FR/EIS process has proven itself to be revolutionary. As society gains insight into the environmental consequences of its actions, controversies of the form of that surrounding the Lower Snake River Dams are sure to become more prevalent. Though the final result of this controversy has yet to be determined, it is evident from investigation of the existing studies that a unified effort is essential to a well-rounded non-biased analysis.
Thesis (M.Eng.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2000.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 99-102).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Civil and Environmental Engineering.