After decades of funding efforts to try and help Idaho sockeye salmon survive the trek through four dams in Washington, one Idaho congressman says it’s time to change the game altogether.
For Native American and Indigenous tribes in the Pacific Northwest, salmon are not just a source of nourishment but a soul-deep connection to the land taken from them by colonizers. The fish are one of the most iconic species in the west. The red fish journey from freshwater in Idaho to the salt water of the Pacific Ocean, and then return to Idaho where they spawn and die — a life cycle that is beautiful in its symbolism and impressive in its biological achievement.
But as the species has come close to extinction in recent decades, politics and industry have complicated the fish’s story. Four dams built on the Lower Snake and Columbia rivers in Washington have become the focus of one of the biggest environmental battles in recent years. The dams serve several purposes, including creating clean energy for a growing region, allowing cheap transport of wheat from farmers in the Northwest, plus irrigation and water control among other uses.
Republican Congressman Mike Simpson has announced a $34 billion proposal to remove the dams and support the industries that rely on them. Idaho Matters spoke with Simpson to learn more about his idea.
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