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Commentaries and editorials

New Study Finds Fish
Do as Well on Dammed Rivers

by Editorial Board
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, October 29, 2008

Yet, environmental groups quickly dismissed the merits of the study.
Any study that doesn't denigrate dams is automatically unscientific, horrible or both.

The dams along the Snake and Columbia rivers have been vilified for years. Specifically, they have been blamed for the decline of the Pacific Northwest's wild salmon population.

And some folks want to tear those dams down. It apparently makes no difference that the dams are essential to the production of clean hydropower or that they allow wheat and other products to be barged down the rivers to market using only a small faction of the fuel that trucks would have used.

Many of those who want the dams breached are fixated on one issue -- salmon survival. Well, we've got some good news for those who hold that narrow view.

A new study indicates salmon survival rates are about the same in two rivers with dams as a river without them.

In the study, scientists tracked juvenile salmon migrating downstream to the Pacific Ocean and found that survival rates of the fish going over the eight dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers was about the same as that of fish in British Columbia's free flowing Fraser River. About 25 percent of the salmon survived the trip to the ocean.

"Everybody thought we would have lower survival in the Columbia. And, in fact, we haven't," said David Welch, lead author of the Canadian study, adding that this might indicate that the billions of dollars spent on modifying the dams and changing the dam operations work.

Yet, not surprisingly, environmental groups -- led by Americans Rivers, which would make a Chicken Little Society look like optimists -- quickly dismissed the merits of the study. That's been the pattern. Any study that doesn't denigrate dams is automatically unscientific, horrible or both. Now, it is possible that the study is flawed for a variety of reasons. However, it should take time and some thoughtful investigation to determine where this study went wrong -- if it went wrong.

Continually harping that a study is wrong when its conclusion disagrees with a particular view is shortsighted.

The goal here should be to find the most cost-effective way to save salmon. The economic and environmental impact to the Pacific Northwest and the entire nation must also be taken into consideration.

If the dams are breached, it will change the landscape of the Northwest and will likely take a huge economic hit. The loss of hydropower, particularly at a time when we are trying to break away from oil dependence, would be particularly difficult to accept. When examining the issue of dams, let's look at all the issues and consider all the studies.

And this is why it is important to continue to take action to help fish survive the trip through the dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers.

Breaching the dams is not a reasonable option.

Letters welcome
Our address is P.O. Box 1358, Walla Walla, WA 99362.
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Related Pages:
Biodiversity: Unraveling the Mysteries of Salmon Migration by Stephen Leahy, Science Daily, 10/31/8
Do Dams Make A Difference? IPS News, 10/30/8
Salmon Study Yields Surprise Result by Jeff Barnard, Capital Press, 10/30/8
Readers Discuss POST article by Reader Discussion, The Oregonian, 10/29/8
Salmon: No Dam Difference? by Editorial Board, The Oregonian, 10/29/8
Track the Salmon in California by Editorial Board, Contra Costa Times, 10/29/8
New Study Finds Fish Do as Well on Dammed Rivers by Editorial Board, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, 10/29/8
Dams Appear to Have No Impact on Salmon by Michael Reilly, Discovery News, 10/29/8
Salmon Smolt Survival Similar in Columbia and Fraser by Mark Floyd, Eureka Alert, 10/27/8
Salmon Study Under Fire for Minimizing Effect of Dams by Warren Cornwall, Seattle Times, 10/27/8
Research Hints Dam Improvements Helping Salmon by Michael Milstein, The Oregonian, 10/27/8
Dams Not Main Cause of Salmon Collapse, Study Says by James Owen, National Geographic News, 10/27/8
Study Shows More Salmon Survive West's Dammed Rivers Canadian Press, 10/27/8
Radio Tags Shed Light on Salmon Migration Routes by Mark Hume, Globe and Mail, 10/27/8

Editorial Board
New Study Finds Fish Do as Well on Dammed Rivers
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, October 29, 2008

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