Salmon, Steelhead and Dams: Letters to the Editor (May 6 – 12, 2019)

15th of May 2019

Tell the full story
Borg Hendrickson – Moscow, Idaho

To confuse you, dam proponents, including some in Congress, tout Columbia Basin’s Snake River per-dam juvenile salmon survival rate as if it applied accumulatively to the entire waterway.

The Army Corps of Engineers cites a per-dam survival rate trending toward 95 percent, which may be true. But it is deceptively used. Here’s why: The anti-salmon crowd fails to tell you that accumulated dam-by-dam losses through all eight dams leaves only 66 percent survival and doesn’t account for losses occurring in the dams’ reservoirs.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s report does. In 2018, NOAA reported a Snake River juvenile spring-summer chinook survival rate — from the head of slackwater (near Lewiston) to Bonneville Dam’s tailrace (the lowest tailrace) — at just 38 percent. NOAA also reported a long-term average of just 49 percent.

However, none of the above rates include “delayed mortality.” These losses occur between Bonneville and the ocean and result from stress and harm juveniles suffer as they pass through the eight-dam and reservoir obstacle course. Researchers estimate delayed mortality losses of 36 percent to 76 percent.

Therefore, including, as we must, delayed mortality, in 2018 the total Snake River juvenile salmon survival rate ranged between 24 percent and 9 percent. These figures tell the sad, whole true story.

Letter to Editor on Salmon Forum
Paul Hill – Stanley, ID

Last week at the Salmon Forum in Boise, Congressman Mike Simpson demonstrated the kind of leadership largely absent in Congress today.  By publicly stating his commitment to play a leadership role in dealing with both Bonneville Power Administration’s impending financial crisis and the threat of extinction to Idaho’s iconic salmon, Mike has provided a launch pad for meaningful progress on these intertwined issues.  

The BPA, based on its own numbers, has exhausted most of its reserves and faces nearly a billion dollars in required but unfunded retrofits/replacements to its four Lower Snake River Dams’ (LSRD) turbines.  It’s also incurring total power production costs on the LSRDs well above what it can sell energy for in a Northwest market experiencing a major and growing power excess.  Without relief from current burdens like the LSRDs (which generate less than 5% of total Pacific Northwest power production), BPA’s only alternatives are substantial customer rate increases or a governmental bailout.

Concurrently, numbers of Idaho’s wild returning Chinook and Sockeye salmon have plummeted to levels that may be unsustainable and point to total extinction absent more dramatic solutions than those tried to date. Most knowledgeable fish biologists agree the best (and maybe only) long- term solution is breaching the LSRDs.

Thus, as Simpson said, breaching these dams must be considered along with a way to meet the needs of those farmers and others currently using LSRD dependent barges to get to market.  Solutions are available and through the commitment, collaboration and creativity Simpson urges, they can be found.  But the need is now and we must all do whatever possible to support Simpson’s efforts!

Dams did not deliver
Bill Chetwood – Lewiston, ID

“Make us whole again?”

What does that mean? More subsidies?

In the past 20 years, the state of Idaho experienced job growth of 39.7 percent.

At the far bottom of the economic ladder is the five north central Idaho counties within Region II. Its job growth was 6.6 percent.

During that same 20-year period, Idaho’s labor force grew by 32.1 percent, while Region II experienced a 3.4 percent increase in its labor force.

Idaho’s Department of Labor also tracks growth in private sector employees versus government employment. During the past 20 years, Idaho saw major increases — 49.3 percent — in the number of private sector employees. In Region II, the number of private sector employees grew by 0.1 percent.

The Port of Lewiston is “Idaho’s only Seaport.”

In the 1950s, the major argument supporting the lower Snake River dams was the economic prosperity these dams would bring to the region by waterborne freight transportation. Observe the decline.

Opposition to the dams centered on a predicted decline in salmon and steelhead numbers, along with the economic and lifestyle losses associated with those fish runs. Observe the decline.

Being dead last in the state in economic growth and the decimation of our fish runs, year after year, might not be the kind of “wholeness” Lewiston’s citizens would prefer, but it sure is a demonstration of the old adage: “as ye sow, so shall ye reap.”