Tag Archives: snake river

Salmon court fallacy: we must spill or spew

There are some great observations and quotes in the liveblog of Matthey Preusch during the Nov 23, 2009, Salmon Court. This first one suggests a slight of hand or an ignorance of the primary findings of the Bright Future report
— that we do not necessarily have to choose between spilling water for salmon in the summer months and spewing carbon dioxide from more fossil-fueled power plants.

Now the judge is questioning the government of [on] the substance of the supplemental plan, such as why the government won’t continue to spill extra water over power-producing dams even though court-ordered spill has been shown to help fish.

The spills “look like they worked,” said Redden. “Why change them?”

“Your honor, that comes with a cost,” answered Howell, attorney for the government. “And I’m not talking about financial cost. I’m talking about carbon. The more we spill, the more we are going to have to offset that with natural gas and coal.”

The bright future scenario includes replacement of the dam’s 1 GW mean annual power supply with salmon-and-orca-friendly clean energy, NOT new or re-powered of coal and gas power plants. This is perhaps the most damning indication that the government is not thinking clearly about the fundamental “change we need” (and the southern residents and salmon need) here in the Pacific Northwest.

Personally, I believe with compelling public education about what values are really at stake, we can exceed the assumptions about potential conservation. As usual, no one wants to talk about the projected growth of energy demand (1.7%/yr) and its connections to population/economic growth and consumer/conservation ethics.

Also very noteworthy was Lubchenko’s statement that she stands “100% behind the science” in the Biop. As a marine scientist, I am eager to see just what she is behind. Thankfully, we may ultimately get the chance if we are to believe the statement by Howell, lead attorney for the government, who:

offered in an exchange with Judge Redden earlier this morning to make public documents from the administration’s review of the science behind the Bush-era salmon plan.

That’s something the government’s critics have been asking for for some time.

“We will release those documents,” Howell said.

Snake River Salmon on KUOW

The most prominent appeal in this discussion was whether we can move away from litigation and towards more collaborative processes to restore the wild populations of Columbia salmon and steelhead. The agreement between 3 tribes and federal agencies (the “Columbia Basin Accords”) may be a step in the right direction. However, many feel the 2008 biological opinion (“BiOp”) is not acceptable and that the Federal agencies need to have their feet held to the fire (by Judge Redden, potentially .

The speakers made a strong suggestion that salmon fisheries will be closed again this year south of Cape Falcon. This is due to the poor condition of the Sacramento River runs, but will also presumably help protect runs from the Kalamath, Rogue, and OR coastal rivers. Ocean conditions north of Cape Falcon are looking about the same as last year (moderate) and we may have a stronger Columbia Coho year. The Pacific Fisheries Management Commission will meet next week; folks will probably start fishing around May 1.

Rob of Trout Unlimited was clearest: There are 1000s of miles of good habitat in the Snake River Basin (NE Oregon and Idaho). If you took down the 4 lower Snake River dams, you would enable wild runs to access that potential salmon refuge. We haven’t had a regional dialogue about realistic solutions to the goal of salmon recovery (to which most parties agree)! The courtroom encourages battle lines, not a serious, creative problem-solving approach. At the end of the day, the only way to have sustainable runs is to have access to habitat in healthy river systems. We’ve spent about $8B on salmonid recovery since initial listing in 1991 and the long-term trends are generally pointing towards extinction of wild runs.

Jerry (42′ salmon trolling fisherman) was also well-spoken: Rail is a good competitor for transport which is the main service provided by the lower Snake River. A problem with 400ton barges is that smaller wheat farmers must aggregate their product and can only get commodity prices. Rail cars could allow an organic wheat farmer to differentiate their product. This year we’re still looking at survival. Eight years from now I hope we’ll have honest commitments from the hydrosystem (the BPA and Army Corp have been too insulated by past administrations). Recent biological opinions have downplayed the impacts of the hydrosystem and have especially avoided the elephant in the room: the lower Snake dams.

clipped from kuow.org

Salmon and the Snake River Dams

03/05/2009 at 9:00 a.m.

Snorkeler with salmon, 1999. Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives.

Snorkeler with salmon, 1999. Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives.

KUOW 94.9 FM



Phil Rigdon is the Director of Natural Resources for the Yakima Nation. He is also a member of the Yakima tribe.
Rob Masonis is Vice President of Western Conservation of Trout Unlimited. He is a sport fisherman.
Stuart Ellis is on the habitat committee of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council. He works for the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission.
Jeremy Brown is a commercial fisherman from Bellingham.
Are salmon on the verge of being moved? Tomorrow, an Oregon federal judge will hear a case which may decide the fate of the salmon runs of the Columbia and Snake River basins.
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