Environmentalists, Post Embrace Some Dam Destruction

     So much for energy independence.

     The Washington Post downplayed the potential loss of four Western hydroelectric dams that might be destroyed to make life easier … for salmon.

     According to the January 31 article by the Post’s Blaine Harden, the destruction of the dams “has extraordinary potential to rebound as a major salmon resource, according to fish biologists and regional officials.”

     It wasn’t until the seventh paragraph that Harden even mentioned the four dams provide power for 70,000 people near the Klamath, “which straddles the Oregon-California border.” There was no clear answer where the substitute power would be obtained.

     According to the article, the federal government ruled that the dam owners must spend $300 million to modify them to accommodate the needs of salmon. That is $101 million more than it would cost to tear down the four dams.

     Harden explained the real motivation behind the dam destruction – problems that include “angry irrigators, litigious environmentalists and Indian tribes whose diet and culture have been substantially damaged by the disappearance of salmon.”

     Dave Kvamme, a spokesman for dam owners PacifiCorp, was the only one to point out the added strain on energy capacity, “adding that his company urgently needs to create more electricity generation and regards the dams as ‘an extremely valuable resource.’”

     This certainly wasn’t the first time environmentalists have been able to tear down existing energy capacity. According to the story, “In three other license-renewal cases, PacifiCorp has agreed to remove dams from Western rivers.” While it doesn’t include totals, the Clearinghouse for Dam Removal Information lists projects in process from Maine to California.

     Ironically, the Post took an entirely different position just five days earlier on January 26. In an editorial, the paper criticized the president’s energy plan because he “missed opportunities to improve energy security and to combat climate change.” Presumably, hydroelectric power would meet both of those goals. 

     A January 24 Business & Media Institute story described the broadcast media fascination with energy independence. “Gas prices on the rise again. Many Americans ‘running on empty.’ There’s a lot more talk about energy independence,” a report from CBS’s Harry Smith on the June 29, 2006, “Early Show.”