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Commentaries and editorials

Dams Not To Blame

by Todd Myers
Lewiston Tribune, October 12, 2019

In retrospect, the number of returning adult salmon was relatively level from 1938 through 1990.  The precipitous loss of returning chinook entering the Snake River (Figure 20) accounts for a major share of the decline that has occurred in total return to the Columbia -- Artificial Production Review, NW Power & Conservation Council As you reported, low steelhead returns this year have some people blaming the lower Snake River dams. The science and data of Snake River steelhead and salmon don't support that.

In March, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife predicted that fisheries for "steelhead bound for the Columbia and Snake rivers" would be low this year due to ocean conditions. The poor return was not caused by the dams. Indeed, during the past decade, steelhead runs reached record levels, even with the dams in place. Dam-related mortality is lower now than it was when we saw those runs.

Additionally, the claim of one person that he gives "salmon and steelhead a decade" is ironic. Environmental activists made a similar claim in 1999, claiming salmon would be extinct on the Snake in 2017. The average runs of steelhead and salmon over the past several years are larger than in the '90s, when that unscientific claim was made.

The low runs this year are frustrating, to be sure. The science, however, doesn't support the attacks on the dams. When people get frustrated, they ignore the science and data. That may be cathartic, but it makes for really bad policy.

Related Pages:
With Billions More in State Budget, It's Time to Fully Fund Salmon Recovery by Todd Myers & David Troutt, Seattle Times, 4/11/19
Why Cut Salmon Recovery Budget? by Todd Myers, Tri-City Herald, 2/25/19 Scientific Priorities (not Marx) Should Guide Orca Recovery by Todd Myers, The Skanner, 2/5/19
Eastside Audubon's Dangerous Position on Salmon and Orca by Todd Myers, Redmond Reporter, 12/7/18
Dam Breaching Advocates Use Misleading Claims by Todd Myers, Walla Walla Union Bulletin, 11/11/18 Listen Breaching Snake River Dams Could Be "a Deadly Distraction for Orca" by Todd Myers, My Northwest, 10/10/18
Politicians on the Hook for Orca, Salmon Failures by Todd Myers, Crosscut, 8/23/18
The Immoral Reaction to an Orca Mother's Grief by Todd Myers, Tri-City Herald, 8/17/18
Feds Request Comments on Future of River Dams by Todd Myers, The Daily News, 12/21/16
Removing Snake River Dams is Bad for Economy and Salmon by Todd Myers, Seattle Times, 7/2/16
Subsidizing Green Industry is Like Propping Up a Kid's Lemonade Stand by Todd Myers, Seattle Times, 10/8/12

Graphic: Returns of Adult salmon and Steelhead to Idaho as counted at the last dam they must cross on their upstream journey.   Estimated Survival Probability for Snake River Chinook and Steelhead.

Todd Myers, Washington Policy Center
Dams Not To Blame
Lewiston Tribune, October 12, 2019

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