The people who want to breach the dams on the lower Snake River in Washington State have done a good job of convincing the public of things that just aren't so:
- "Barging doesn't work." Not true. Salmon runs were starting to decline long before barging began--before any dams were built, in fact. Many scientists believe barging is the only thing that's kept the runs alive this long.
- "Breaching dams will bring back the salmon." Again, not strictly true. According to one government study that used assumpions instead of data, breaching could bring the runs back--but it will take half a century to find out.
- "If we don't breach, they'll take more water from southern Idaho." Tsk, Tsk. Shame on the folks spreading this little bit of dissension. All the options currently being studied that call for breaching also call for more water.
- "All the possible technological solutions have been tried and don't work." Again, not true. Significant work has been done in the area of small, instream hatch boxes to boost suvival numbers among smolt, engineered streams for habitat and migration and improved screening techniques. All show promise, but the focus on breaching robs them of attention and development dollars.
Maybe it's time to step back and look at realistic solutions. Breaching, even if it would bring the runs back, will never gain the acceptance it needs in time to do any good. If we want to save the fish, we'd better look at other ways.
On the other hand, if we just want to destroy dams and to hell with the fish, we're going the right direction.
by Becky Johnstone
, McCall - Letter to the Editor
Step Back and Look Again
Idaho Mountain Express, November 10, 1999
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