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The River Damned

The Proposed Removal of the Lower Snake River Dams


Alan Paul Price
Department of Geography & Geology
University of Wisconsin—Washington County


In this dilemma case, Congresswoman Madeline Gibson must cast her vote on the fate of the lower Snake River dams. The stakeholders in this decision represent government agencies, small businesses, large industries, farmers, local tribes, environmentalists, and sports fishermen, and include among them many of her own family members. The case illustrates the conflicts that can arise when environmental concerns force people to reconsider long-standing policies with significant benefits and often entrenched supporters. Developed for an introductory-level environmental geology course, the case could also be used in environmental as well as biology courses.

  • Understand the effect of dams on physical stream processes.
  • Demonstrate how physical alterations of streams lead to long-term effects on habitat both upstream and downstream from the alteration.
  • Illustrate how human systems become dependent on large environment-altering structures and, more specifically, to make students aware of how enmeshed various government agencies are in this and other water issues.
  • Illustrate that the point-of-view of each stakeholder often determines how facts are interpreted and presented to defend or oppose a proposed action.
Keywords: Snake River; salmon; dam removal; fishing; irrigation; power generation; water navigation; water rights; water conflicts; waterways; environmental decision-making; Walla Walla Indians; Pacific Northwest
Topical Area: Policy issues, Regulatory issues, Social issues
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Dilemma/Decision, Role-Play
Language: English
Subject Headings: Environmental Science   Earth Science   Natural Resource Management  
Date Posted: 06/27/02
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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