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Commentaries and editorials

Focus on Dam Removal
Instead of Killing Birds

by Joe Paliani
Chinook Observer, June 10, 2019

In 1989, only 100 nesting pairs of double-crested cormorants were counted on East Sand Island, near the mouth of the Columbia River. By 2013, numbers had increased to nearly 15,000 nesting pairs, the largest colony in North America. Millions of taxpayer dollars plus have been wasted trying to kill cormorants -- and still the birds have learned how to survive.

They overcome bullets, the robbery and crushing of their eggs, the ripping-to-pieces of their nests. A million dollars a year for the past three years, and still counting.

First, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers built the dams that cut off native fish spawning routes, effectively killing off the 70- to 100-pound salmon species, cutthroat trout, steelhead, shad and smelt runs. Millions of king, sockeye, silver and other native salmon used to migrate up the Columbia and Snake rivers.

The Corps of Engineers is responsible for the dams that blocked native salmon breeding areas. Eighty years ago, before the dams, a million salmon a year would migrate from Buoy 10 up to the rivers of Washington, Oregon and Idaho to spawn in their native breeding beds. In 2017 and 2018, only three and five native sockeye salmon were counted as they migrated up the Snake River, where once hundreds of thousands migrated, unimpeded by dams the Army built.

So, what does the corps do? Let's blame the birds for the loss of the salmon! It costs the taxpayers $1,000 to kill one cormorant, one bird. The cormorants are not stupid. When the corps harassed and killed them by the thousands on East Sand Island, the birds got smart and moved. It so happens the birds were smart enough to move to a location where the corps can't shoot them without endangering the public -- they were driven from East Sand Island to the nearby Astoria-Megler Bridge.

Now the corps can't shoot the cormorants while on the bridge, so they are campaigning to build a case for killing the birds in some other way. What will they use next? Flame throwers? They want the public to believe the birds will destroy the bridge by pooping on it. Sure -- it would take 220,000 years for bird poop to destroy the bridge; but build the case anyway.

Why doesn't the corps wise up and start building a case for removing the dams they erected, so the rivers can once again roam naturally? Take down the dams and restore the Columbia and Snake rivers to their natural states. Stop blaming birds for your dumb mistake of damming the rivers in the first place. It is necessary for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to do its job and not approve license renewals on either the Snake or the Columbia rivers.

The corps needs to re-direct their talent and energies away from the inane killing of birds in order to free their time for demolition of the Snake and Columbia dams. Stop extinction of the rivers' fisheries. Stop wasting the public's money on your fanciful exaggerations of problems you've created in the first place. Stop squandering public money and do something to help remove the real problem facing our salmon and other fisheries -- blast the damn dams. Do something "deconstructive" for a change.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Related Pages:
Less Nesting Habitat Has Led to Higher Nesting Density for Salmonid-Eating Caspian Terns by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 3/13/15
Killing Cormorants Not Improving Steelhead Survival Rates by Laura Berg, NW Fishletter, 6/6/16
Oregon: Federal Plan to Save Salmon by Killing Birds Backfired by Karina Brown, Courthouse News Service, 2/5/19

Joe Paliani, Ocean Park
Focus on Dam Removal Instead of Killing Birds
Chinook Observer, June 10, 2019

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