Court's Ruling on Salmon Plan Threatens Dams
by Editorial Board
The fact is that nobody knows for certain how to fully restore the salmon runs. Any plan will involve trial and error, which means it is prudent to consider the impact the plan will have on society.
A few years back the cry to breach the four Snake River dams was loud.
But in recent years common sense drowned out the cries. It became clear that taking down the dams on the Snake - or the Columbia - would have a devastating impact on the Pacific Northwest. It would put the Northwest's economy - literally - under water.
And dam breaching would not necessarily ensure the survival of salmon.
Given that, other ways to enhance the salmon population have wisely been pursued.
And the salmon population has been on the rise. A variety of factors, including the weather, have played a role.
Yet, some are still itching to bring down the dams. Unfortunately, their cause got a boost last week when 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge's order requiring dams sacrifice power production to help juvenile salmon migration to the ocean. The judge, James Redden, has ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to spill more water over the dams. The Associated Press reported that this keeps open the possibility that Redden could order the Snake River dams breached. Redden said he would do just that.
Redden, and the 9th Circuit Court, have gone too far. It is not for the courts to mandate solutions or set policy.
The Bush administration and Congress should be establishing the plan.
Redden and the 9th Circuit, however, maintain that satisfying the requirements of the Endangered Species Act are a ``first priority'' over other laws.
The fact is that nobody knows for certain how to fully restore the salmon runs. Any plan will involve trial and error, which means it is prudent to consider the impact the plan will have on society, not just salmon.
In 2001 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a study on breaching the Snake River dams. It considered a variety of factors and concluded that dam breaching would do more harm than good. The Corps said dam breaching would increase the chances of salmon restoration only slightly - if at all - while taking a huge toll on the economy of the region.
The ruling by the 9th Circuit upholding Redden's effort to legislate from the bench should be appealed so a common-sense approach to saving salmon can be put in place.
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Gene Spangrude wrote on April 16, 2007 11:09 AM:
"To step back and get some perspective on the longer term, it is interesting to review literature published during the late 1800's concerning the Northwest's fisheries issues. For example, a large report for the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries was printed by the Government Printing Office in 1878. This report's Appendix A of Part IV is interestingly entitled "An Inquiry into the Decrease of the Food-Fishes". One statement from the is that "the salmon have not increased in the Columbia River during the last ten years" (1865-1875). Still another part of the report states that "on the Willamette River the fisherman claim that the salmon have very much diminished and that they caught only 20 or 30 now where they used to catch 100." In another Federal Government report dated 1896, entitled "A Preliminary Report Upon Salmon Investigations in Idaho in 1894," by Barton W. Evermann, a statement is made about "the alarming decrease in the salmon catch of the Columbia River in recent years" (the 1890's). Yet another Federal report, entitled "Notes on a Reconnaissance of the Fisheries of the Pacific Coast of the United States in 1894" by Hugh M. Smith states that "the pack of chinook salmon for the 1893 fishing season was the smallest in twenty years (since 1873)." Clearly the problem of declining fish resources had been noted for quite some time before the construction of the four Lower Snake River Dams, the first of which (Ice Harbor Dam) came on line approximately SEVENTY YEARS AFTER the last of the reports mentioned previously. Another interesting item to examine is Figure #1, found on page 663 of the article titled "Salmon and Steelhead Abundance in the Columbia River in the 19th Century," by D.W. Chapman, and found in Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 115:662-670, 1986. This same article also contains a list of references which should provide much interesting reading on salmon. Interesting to see from this article's figure #1 that since about 1920 or so the trend of the Columbia River salmon catch (harvest) has been downward. This trend appears to have started even before the dams were in place, about 15 years before the completion of Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. I think that it also should be noted that the population of the United States has increased by about a factor of five (5) since about 1870 (from about 40 million in 1870 to over 200 million in 1970). "
Joel wrote on April 16, 2007 10:59 AM:
"Breaching the dams would multiply our reliance on fossil fuels and imports of petroleum from the Mideast countries. Is that in the best interest for this country in inrease our dependency on foriegn oil, or is in our best interest to increase the size of salmons on the Snake river. What has happened to common sense??? "
Scott wrote on April 16, 2007 7:58 AM:
"The Walla Walla editorial staff is screaming like Chicken Little. "It became clear that taking down the dams on the Snake - or the Columbia - would have a devastating impact on the Pacific Northwest." The only evidence presented here is the Army Corps report of 2001. Read accurately, the report says that without the Lower Snake River dams and reservoirs, the region would lose the value of the electricity provided by these dams (approximated at $250 million per year). Everything else was shown to be a wash. Some in the region would have losses (wheat growers nearest the Snake River) while others would see benefits (Native Americans for one). If the Walla Walla staff has other evidence of a "devastating impact", please present it. But please do not distort the truth. "
Pika wrote on April 15, 2007 11:19 AM:
"This editorial frames the issue as if the lower Snake dams are irreplaceable. They're not. We're currently spending $600 million a year on a salmon plan that's not working -- if we put some of that money toward replacing the dams' benefits, everyone -- from farmers to fish -- would probably be better off."
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