If Only It Were that Simple
by Terry Flores
Idaho Statesman, January 2, 2011
In his story "Resurgent Northwest salmon show 'spill' is better than barging" (Dec. 5), Rocky Barker attempts to untangle fish survival complexities in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Where his effort fails is its suggestion that spilling water through the dams is "the" answer.
If only it were that simple.
Salmon have a very complicated life cycle. Only a fraction is spent migrating downriver, meaning a comprehensive approach is needed to increase survivals. Fortunately, the federal salmon plan pending before Judge Redden takes that approach.
Huge investments in "fish slides" are aiding downstream salmon migration. Barging and spill are tools too, although spill can "gas up" the river and kill fish, and is costly. A massive habitat restoration effort is under way and the plan also includes hatchery reforms, rigorous monitoring and contingency plans.
It is the most comprehensive plan in the country, and the most expensive! Its $800 million annual price-tag is paid out of the pocketbooks of families and businesses through their electric bills. But fish survivals as reported by NOAA Fisheries are higher than before the Snake River dams were constructed, showing actions are working and any suggestion of removing the dams is simply nonsensical.
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