Lower Snake Dam Removal Will Save Taxpayers Billions of Dollars and Boost Regional Economy

Study shows energy, transportation and irrigation benefits can be replaced cost-effectively as part of salmon recovery plan

revenues-report-cover.smRemoving four dams on the lower Snake River in Washington state will save U.S. taxpayers and Northwest electricity consumers billions of dollars, according to a new study by a coalition of taxpayer, business and conservation groups.

Download Revenue Stream.

The study, entitled Revenue Stream, examines the economic impact of dam removal and salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to taxpayer savings of up to $5 billion, the study finds that increased tourism, new outdoor recreation, and improved sport and commercial fishing opportunities could generate more than $20 billion in revenue for the region.

“The bottom line is clear,” said David Jenkins, government affairs director for Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP). “The financial cost of maintaining and operating these dams far outweighs their benefits. It will be cheaper for taxpayers and better for utility ratepayers to remove these dams and replace their current benefits than to continue funding the status quo.”

Removing the four lower Snake River dams and restoring wild salmon in the Columbia Basin will return significant economic dividends to the nation and the Northwest, creating a “revenue stream” of federal taxpayer savings and increased economic benefits from new and restored industries.

 chart-page11Using the best and most recent available information, Revenue Stream presents a side-by-side comparison of the federal expenses of maintaining and operating the dams versus the costs of removing the dams and replacing their benefits. The conclusion: With a bottom line savings of up to $5 billion, removing the four lower Snake River dams is a smart investment that will return significant dividends to the nation and the Northwest, through savings to taxpayers and increased economic benefits from new and restored industries.

"This report makes it clear that dam removal is a cost-effective option to restore the nation's Columbia and Snake River salmon and must be considered,” said Steve Ellis, vice president for programs at Taxpayers for Common Sense.  “Taxpayers cannot afford to continue to foot the bill for the expensive failures of the status quo. If the federal government continues to ignore real solutions like dam removal, taxpayers will forced to pay again by shouldering the massive costs of extinction."

Two decades of failed federal salmon recovery efforts have already cost taxpayers and Northwest utility ratepayers nearly $7 billion.Revenue Stream shows that maintaining and operating these four dams will continue to cost hundreds of millions of dollars every year while pushing wild salmon and steelhead closer to extinction; the report estimates that it will cost taxpayers another $9 billion just to keep these four outdated dams operating for the next decade.

Revenue Stream explodes the myth that dam removal will somehow harm the Northwest. The report shows how the energy, irrigation and transportation benefits these dams currently provide in the region can be replaced as part of larger salmon recovery plan that will cost taxpayers and electricity ratepayers less than what is already being spent by the federal government today

chart.p15“Electric ratepayers keep paying and paying for measures that can’t possibly restore threatened and endangered Columbia Basin fish or help those living, working and doing business in salmon-dependent communities,” said Sara Patton, executive director of NW Energy Coalition, a regional clean-energy and consumer-protection alliance. “New jobs and economic development will more than compensate for the modest expense of removing these four dams and replacing their limited energy production with energy efficiency and affordable new renewable power.”

The report also shows that removal of the four lower Snake River dams and subsequent recovery of Snake River salmon populations would be a boon for fishing and outdoor recreation industries in the West. Representing a nearly five-fold increase in commercial fishing, sport fishing and recreational opportunities in the Columbia Basin and five Pacific states – California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska – revenues could reach $20 billion over the next two decades.

“The numbers are very powerful,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA), which represents commercial fishermen in Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska. “Revenue Stream makes clear in dollars and sense that fiscal responsibility compels our elected leaders to include dam removal in a scientifically sound and economically beneficial recovery plan for Columbia and Snake River salmon.”

Revenue Stream identifies areas where additional independent economic assessment is needed. For example, we need a full economic analysis of the potential of a restored salmon and steelhead fishery in the Columbia  Basin, and we urge Congress to ensure that these kinds of studies get done. Such studies will help Congress and the nation understand the value of common-sense salmon recovery; without them, this country will continue to waste precious resources – both economic and natural.


Revenue Stream was researched and prepared by staff of Taxpayers for Common Sense, Save Our Wild Salmon, REP, PCFFA, the Institute for Fisheries Research, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, NW Energy Coalition and American Rivers.

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