The Real Story Behind the Columbia Basin Salmon Debacle: Dam Preservation under the Endangered Species Act

8 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2011 Last revised: 24 Oct 2011

Date Written: July 12, 2011


This review of Steven Hawley’s provocative book, Recovering a Lost River: Removing Dams, Rewilding Salmon, Revitalizing Communities, examines Hawley’s claim that the best way to recover endangered Snake River salmon is by removing the four Lower Snake River dams. These dams, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, impede access to over 5300 miles of prime salmon habitat and operate with enormous public subsidies, largely to maintain a seaport 465 miles inland at Lewiston, Idaho. Hawley’s book not only shows that additional public subsidies in the form of river dredging and new levees will be necessary to maintain the port, but that local residents are beginning to question the sustainability of relying on the port for their economic future. The book explains how Endangered Species Act procedures have only resulted in minor changes to dam operations and discusses the benefits of a restored Snake River by examining salmon runs in undammed Alaska and in California and Maine where dams have been removed. Although the removal of the Lower Snake Dams faces long political odds, Hawley’s book is a reminder that both economically and ecologically it is the best means of restoring Snake River salmon, which has been federal and regional policy for more than three decades.

Keywords: natural resources law, environmental law, hydropower, endangered species, renewable resources

JEL Classification: H53, K23, K32, O13, Q22, Q28, Q48

Suggested Citation

Blumm, Michael C., The Real Story Behind the Columbia Basin Salmon Debacle: Dam Preservation under the Endangered Species Act (July 12, 2011). Environmental Law, Vol. 41, Forthcoming, Lewis & Clark Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-16, Available at SSRN:

Michael C. Blumm (Contact Author)

Lewis & Clark Law School ( email )

10015 S.W. Terwilliger Blvd.
Portland, OR 97219
United States
503-768-6824 (Phone)
503-768-6701 (Fax)

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