Idaho isn't a saint, especially contemporary Idaho, in dam removal for the sake of salmon, but dams have been removed in the Gem State for the sake of salmon.
Perhaps that fact needs to be celebrated. There is a lot of myth surrounding one Idaho dam removal. The popular story of the breaching of Sunbeam Dam is that some locals took it upon themselves to dynamite the 24-year-old dam in 1934, but newspaper accounts and Idaho Fish & Game ledgers say it was done by state officials for the sake of the sockeye of the Sawtooth Valley that waited and spawned below the dam for nearly two and a half decades before they could give Redfish Lake and others the appropriate red hue in August and September. IDFG did appropriate money for the purpose of breaching Sunbeam Dam on the upper Salmon River, but I will allow legend and lore its appropriate leeway and leave it at that.
Grangeville Dam, built in 1903, was washed out by the torrent of the South Fork of the Clearwater River on three occasions before it was rebuilt with concrete in 1918. It was a complete barrier to salmon and steelhead until 1963 when Washington Water and Power's fish and wildlife biologist Tim Vaughn convinced enough people that the dam's impact on fisheries exceeded its worth in generating one megawatt of power. Idaho Fish and Game got involved in 1950, one year after the fish passage washed out at the dam. The power company voluntarily removed the dam 13 years later.
"We can live and prosper in this western community only by serving the public with full consideration for all resources, " Vaughn said.
The decision was based on the fact that no type of fish passage could equal natural stream passage.
The good people at Idaho Rivers United supplied me with this research and have these stories on hand, should you wish to look at what they have found.
There was also a dam at Lewiston until 1973. It was removed mostly because of the construction of Lower Granite Dam, which was completed in 1975. Its removal opened 450 miles of habitat, but its existence for 46 years wiped out the Clearwater River's chinook salmon populations. The ancestors of those salmon were the ones my ancestor William Clark first viewed and dined on after the Corps of Discovery's almost disastrous trek over the Bitterroot Mountains in 1805.
Does anyone miss Sunbeam Dam? Does anyone miss the Grangeville or Lewiston dams?
I didn't think so. Why is it almost taboo to speak of removing four lower Snake River dams today?
Exactly my point.