Retired Fish Biologist says
by Allison Morrow
A retired federal fish biologist is criticizing his former employer for ignoring a salmon crisis on the Columbia River system.
For the last few years, one of the loudest voices among those who want the Snake River dams removed has been Jim Waddell, a former engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"We've been saying that for years. This is not an opinion issue. This is the facts," Waddell said.
Waddell has argued repeatedly that the research coming from his own former employer shows the dams are a significant block to salmon recovery.
Now another former federal worker is joining him.
"We are re-doing some studies and they are just putting money out saying, money will do it. Well, money is not doing it," said retired fisheries biologist Chris Pinney.
Pinney worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for nearly three decades. His job was focused on helping fish survive traveling past the lower four Snake River dams. A federal judge forced the government to make improvements to protect endangered salmon, but Pinney says his research showed the improvements would continue to fall short.
"They were little incremental increases that weren't going to get us there," he said.
Pinney is now helping orca advocates as they make an emergency effort to save the starving Southern Resident killer whales who depend on Columbia River salmon for survival.
"The Columbia used to be cooler. Now the Columbia has been hotter as you go down the river so you're losing even more fish," Pinney said.
There is skepticism even among orca advocates that removing the Snake River dams are the most expeditious and cost-efficient way to recover salmon.
Those who want to keep the dams question whether removal will bring back the fish. They point to polluted water and other habitat issues. Farmers also use the river to transport crops like wheat.
All that doubt, however, is misguided if you ask Waddell and Pinney, who say the government hasn't done enough to consider removing the dams and just keeps making excuses, especially by spending more money on studies that have already been done.
"Now we are seeing that that billion dollars basically got us nothing," Waddell said.
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