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Eight Dams on Columbia, Snake Rivers Begin Three Month Shutdown, Impacting Already Struggling Idaho Wheat Farmers

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PORTOFLEWISTON.COM
  • portoflewiston.com
With the $4 per bushel price for wheat near a five-year low—and even less if the harvest is sub-standard due to steady rains this past spring—Idaho wheat growers are feeling the pinch. Now they're facing another challenge with the shutdown of eight dams between north-central Idaho and the Pacific Coast.

According to the Lewiston Tribune, the dams will be taken offline to undergo maintenance and repairs that have been years in the planning. The dams will be shut down Monday, Dec. 12 and remain closed until Monday, March 20.

The maintenance, conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will be costly. Replacement at a gate and lock controls at The Dalles alone will cost upwards of $10.5 million.

The Tribune reports grain barges from the Lower Snake and Columbia river system have already been floated to a location below the dams, where they'll stay throughout the winter. That means the wheat shipped before the shutdown will have to represent a large share of what will be available to overseas customers during the outage, according to the Idaho Wheat Commission.

At the same time, the federal government is taking public comment on the future of the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers, including the possibility of removal. U.S. District Court Court Judge Michael Simon ordered the government in May to find alternative solutions to the dam system, which environmental advocates insist continually threatens salmon and steelhead trout.

A flotilla of more than 300 people protested the Snake River Dam System in October 2015. - IDAHO RIVERS UNITED
  • Idaho Rivers United
  • A flotilla of more than 300 people protested the Snake River Dam System in October 2015.

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