Klamath Provides Example for Snakeby Editors
The Daily Astorian, March 7, 2006
Removing dams to help salmon will have long-term benefits
Mismanagement of the Klamath River has been big news since 2002, when low flows caused 70,000 adult Chinook salmon to rot on the river's banks. Now, with regulators considering a fishing ban for 700 miles of the Oregon and California coast, it will be fishing boats and local economies that rot.
Troubles with Klamath salmon runs have a direct impact on fishermen north of Cape Falcon. Up to 15 percent of Washington's salmon fleet depends on catches from the Klamath and Columbia River boats - and seafood consumers - also will feel the pinch if Klamath salmon become off-limits.
"A lot of people are going to lose their jobs. It will mean ocean-catch salmon will be much harder to get. And it will be much more expensive," according to the regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.The Klamath is being managed more for the benefit of irrigators than for salmon protected by the Endangered Species Act. In keeping with the pattern established on the Columbia-Snake river system, federal officials prefer to load more burdens on the already seriously depleted fishing fleet than make meaningful changes to dam operations.
It is the dams on the Klamath that have denied salmon the water they need for migration. It is the dams that have raised water temperatures above that required by salmon. It is the dams that have eliminated spring floods, allowing the river to become infested with a parasite that killed young salmon once they reached the ocean.
Although it may come too late to any fishermen who now are just managing to hang on, there is some good news. Environmentalists, Indian tribes, fishermen and others are talking with dam operators and the government about removing some Klamath dams. We should hope for the same openness when it comes to bypassing the Snake River dams, in preference to the current federal and state policy of flatly rejecting such steps.
Problems on the Klamath this year are only part of a larger, scarier picture of environmental trouble up and down the Pacific Coast. From a vast die-off of seabirds in British Columbia waters to continuing threats to the survival of orca whales, we are seeing widespread signs of ecosystems under stress. Perhaps this can be blamed on global warming, or perhaps it is part of a more complex interlocking set of issues. In any case, cooperation and communication will be key if we are to effectively cope with a world in the throes of change.
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