The expression “first do no harm” is a popular phrase often attributed to the Hippocratic oath taken by doctors. The idea is that it may be better to do nothing rather than intervening and causing more harm than good. The Hippocratic oath taken by dentists includes a similar promise to do no intentional harm to patients. That’s why it’s so surprising that Congressman Mike Simpson, a dentist, would seek to do intentional harm to Idahoans with his plan to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Lower Snake River at a cost of $33 billion.
Simpson says his plan will address the decades-long problem of how to save salmon populations. Simpson has joined with environmentalists who have long supported breaching the dams. Environmentalists say the dams hinder the migration of salmon to the Pacific where nearly half of the young salmon die on the journey.
Those opposing Simpson’s plan are quick to point out that no conclusive scientific proof exists that such a drastic measure would restore salmon runs in Idaho. They point to predators like seals, sea lions and killer whales that feast on the salmon. Birds kill millions of salmon smolts in the Columbia River. Foreign commercial fishing operations deplete salmon populations. Native American harvesting and sport fishermen contribute to dwindling salmon populations. Others claim that warming water temperatures pose the biggest threat. Simpson appears to concede these depredatory sources play a major role in the salmon population when he said, “I want to be clear that I’m not certain removing these dams will restore Idaho salmon and prevent their extinction.”
What is certain is that removal of the dams will result in Idaho’s losing valuable irrigation water. Idaho will lose its only inland seaport in Lewiston that provides low-cost, environmentally friendly shipping for billions of dollars’ worth of products to West Coast seaports. Idaho counties (including some close to home like Fremont and Teton) will no longer receive cheap hydroelectricity produced by the dams. Flood control will be less certain. And serious concerns exist that if all four dams are removed, sediments trapped behind them will quickly migrate downstream, rendering ports in Pasco and Kennewick largely unusable and perhaps destroying fish habitat.
These concerns explain why Gov. Little opposes Simpson’s plan. Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo oppose Simpson’s plan. Congressman Russ Fulcher opposes Simpson’s plan. Even the Idaho Legislature has formally condemned Simpson’s plan. The joint memorial says removing the dams “would inflict on the citizenry of the state a loss in economic and trade opportunities, a loss of recharge waters for the state’s aquifers, a loss of navigation and transportation, an increased risk of floods, an increase in electrical rates, a shortfall in power generation, a loss of recreational opportunities and a threatened quality of life for Idaho citizens.”
Recently, the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee expressed its opposition and passed a “Resolution Of No Confidence In Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson Breaching Snake River Dams.” The BCRCC invites you to contact Simpson and tell him to withdraw his catastrophic plan. Tell him to put Idaho first and do no harm. You can contact him at https://simpson.house.gov/contact/.
Bryan Smith is the fourth vice chair of the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee.