The Idaho Department of Commerce estimates that the recreation and tourism industry is the third largest in the state. Sport fishing is a significant part of this big business. Sport fishermen in Idaho spent nearly $400 million in 1991. The 1992-93 steelhead fishery generated $52 million to $98 million of economic activity. Even the short nine-day fishery on three miles of the Little Salmon River for 500 spring chinook returning to Rapid River Hatchery in 1992 generated $675,000 to $1.5 million to the state's economy that year.
In 1997 the travel and tourism in the United States brought in $502 billion in revenue. Visitors spent an average of $1.38 billion per day. Close to $40 billion was spent on fishing and fishing-related activities alone. The tourist industry has become one of the nation's largest growth industries, and a top employer. Of the 1997 gross only $1.7 billion was spent in Idaho, accounting for almost 6% of the state's annual $29 billion gross revenues. Clearly, tourism already plays a significant role to the Idaho economy. Recreation and visits to natural and cultural areas account for 48% of the 1997 tourist revenues. It seems that there is room to aquifer a "bigger piece of the national pie"by enhancing visitor opportunities ion Idaho - particularly in the area of outdoor recreation.
In the Northwest: $500 million in annual economic benefits and 25,000 jobs in the commercial and sport fishing industry have been lost due to the loss of salmon.
$70 to $150 million annually will be added to Idaho's economy with an improved salmon fishery, and 2,100 full-time jobs. A 1996 study by the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation found that a restored salmon and steelhead fishery would pump $23 million a year or more into river communities like Stanley, Riggins and Orofino and could sustain 4,500 family wage jobs.
In 1997, 6,500 Idaho residents purchased salmon fishing permits in Oregon and Alaska. An estimated $5 to $8 million in revenue could be returned to Idaho if residents did not have to go out of state to fish for salmon.
Resident hatchery program costs were 2.1 million dollars for an average cost of $1.63 per pound or $0.08 per fish. Cost varied greatly between the hatcheries. Cabinet Gorge Hatchery had the lowest cost per fish at $0.018 and American Falls Hatchery had the highest at $0.23 per fish. This is due to the great diversity in the resident hatchery system goals. Rainbow trout of catchable size (8 to 12 inches) composed approximately one-half of the program costs at approximately $1 million.
View Statistical Summary of Idaho Department of Fish and Game Resident Fish Hatcheries for 01/01/98 - 12/31/98
There are 500 dams in the Columbia Basin, and the four lower snake river dams (the ones in question) account for just 1% of the total. These 4 dams provide limited flood control. $23 to 60 million a year in tourist income will be lost from the loss of four reservoirs behind the dams in question.
These four hydropower facilities (in 1999) provide 3483 Megawatts, about 5% of total power, to the regional grid, but only 1.5% of the Idaho supply. A 1998 Northwest Power Planning Council analysis found that bypassing the dams would have no effect of regional market rates for electricity. However, according to Idaho Power, a five percent contribution would not be an easily absorbable amount. Initial impacts were underestimated because the four facilities allocate their power to a smaller grid, which is only a part of the regional grid. That local grid would experience a 35% power loss. A possible solution would be to introduce a natural gas burning turbine to make up for the loss. The difference in cost however is nearly three times: hydropower 1-1.5¢/Kilowatt hr. vs. 3.2-3.5¢/Kilowatt hr for a gas turbine.
Each has a lock to allow commercial barging to occur as far inland as Lewiston which currently serves as a port town and terminus for shipping grain, for Potlatch, Boise Cascade and the like. Currently this form of shipping is subsidized by tax dollars. Railroad access is available as an economic alternative to barging.
Cost of upgrading and maintaining the dams if left in place: $200 million.
Cost of complete breaching: $100 to $500 million. The lower Snake River dams will not need to be destroyed to help the fish populations, only the earthen dam portions are to be removed so that the river can flow around them. If necessary the earth fill could be replaced to make the dams operational again. The cost of removing just the earthen berms? $25 million per dam. While this seems expensive, it may actually save money to bypass dams. According to a 1988 Oregon Natural Resource Council study, bypassing the dams will actually save the region $87 million a year, not including the benefits of a restored fishery.
Approximately $34 million in annual revenue will be lost to the city of Lewiston (once it no longer serves as a port) An estimated range of 40 to 1,500 jobs may be lost.