the film
Commentaries and editorials

Science on Dam Removal
Does Seem Clear

by Charles Phillips
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, June 9, 2019

Graphic: Annual average survival estimates for PIT-tagged yearling Chinook salmon hatchery and wild fish combined. Vertical bars represent 95% confidence intervals. This letter is a follow up to my earlier letter wherein I wrote to commend U-B Editorial Page Editor Rick Eskil for his editorial on the absurdity of our state legislature’s appropriation of $750,000, at the urging of Jay "Green Governor" Inslee, to once again study how the removal of the dams on the lower Snake River might save the salmon and the orcas.

A recent May 23 commentary in The Waitsburg Times authored by Don C. Brunell makes it abundantly clear that it is not the Snake River dams that are impacting the salmon runs.

According to Brunell, "Northwest River Partners reports survival through the Snake River dams for young salmon averages 97 percent. It is even better for juvenile steelhead at 99.5." The problem, according to Brunell, is that "Salmon maturing in the ocean must dodge the engulfing nets from fleets of giant trawlers, many of which are foreign. The small percentage of mature salmon which return to the Columbia and Snake also must run the gauntlet of seals, sea lions, nets and fishing lines."

I know that my "Green" friends on the political left will respond to this with their frequently repeated mantras that "the science is settled" and that "97 percent of scientists agree" that the dams are decimating the salmon and that I’m an ignorant, misinformed troglodyte.

My response, as always, is that the science was settled when 16th century Italian philosopher (and former Catholic priest) Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for a stubborn adherence to his then-unorthodox belief that the universe is infinite and that other solar systems exist.

However, to claim that the science is settled on dam removal does have more than a little validity since every expert that I’ve read has concluded that removing the four lower Snake River dams would do little or nothing to affect salmon runs. See, for example, "The Case against Breaching the Four Lower Snake River Dams to Recover Wild Snake River Salmon" by Fish and Wildlife Biologist John McKern (

I realize that my friends who are members of The Church of a Sustainable Environment will likely brand me a heretic just like poor Bruno, but I’m willing to bear that stigma just so long as they don’t burn me at the stake. I hope that’s not too much to ask.

Charles Phillips, Walla Walla
Science on Dam Removal Does Seem Clear
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, June 9, 2019

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