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Fish Declined Before Dams

by Gene Spangrude
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, August 14, 2022

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 The discussions about removing and breaching the lower Snake River dams are interesting to follow.

Whichever of these options is done, returning the lower Snake River to its natural flow conditions will end both barge navigation and power production on the river. And even though the dams are left in place, their ability to produce power will be negated without some form of water surface elevation difference created between their upstream and downstream portions.

Back in the 1870s, federal reports were being prepared based on investigations being made back then regarding "the decrease of the food fishes" within the Columbia River basin. These reports are available through major libraries, such as the Seattle Public Library.

Long before the lower Snake River dams were constructed, there were concerns being raised about the declining numbers of salmon in the system. The maximum harvest of Columbia basin salmon occurred in 1883, and has been in general decline since that peak harvest. This information is available in published reports as well.

No matter which option is utilized -- be it breaching or removal -- hopefully some thought will be given to the fact the salmon numbers were decreasing long before the lower Snake River dams were constructed.

Gene Spangrude, Walla Walla, Washington
Fish Declined Before Dams
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, August 14, 2022

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