the film
Commentaries and editorials

We Can No Longer
Damn the Salmon

by Linda Brugger
Twin Times-News, March 18, 2021

Congressman Mike Simpson has been talking to people throughout the northwest and in Washington, D.C. about the salmon crisis, and he says he's determined to do what he can to solve it. As I understand history and anthropology, humans have tried to change the earth since pre-recorded times. We don’t always agree with the way Mother Nature changes our lives. Our earth has a molten core that interferes with our life on the surface. We still cannot control the weather, so we are at the mercy of its whims regarding the amount of water available where we want it and the air’s temperature when we want to grow crops or play winter games. We find ways to work with what nature throws at us.

In the last century, we decided to tackle a long-standing problem. The beautiful streams and rivers that are valuable sources of the water we need to live, the fish we love to eat, and the fertile soil to grow crops would suddenly turn on us and destroy everything on their banks. Thanks to modern engineering techniques, we could expand from small-size water diversion projects to massive dams large enough to hold back extreme flooding.

In addition to the relief from flooding, we were able to store up abundant water for leaner times. We could produce cheaper electricity. We could launch recreational boats. Inland Idaho became a seaport thanks to dams and a system of locks. I am old enough to have shared the preceding generation’s excitement at the utility of dams. Of course, I was not a salmon or an Indian tribe. I was not a whale, a seal, a sea lion, a bear, or a dolphin. I was not a sport or commercial fisherman. All of the science we now call ecology was yet to come.

Dams are an example of the effect of the Law of Unintended Consequences. We visit Redfish lake and say it was named for the salmon which migrated to it years ago. No one wanted to damn the Salmon. We hoped fish ladders and other modern ideas could let us have our dams and our fish too. Sadly, we cannot. We tried. We can have dams, or we can damn the salmon. Unfortunately, damning the Salmon also damns all of the other species that feed on them and others in the food chain.

Mike Simpson has been aware of the salmon problem for twenty-five years. Sen. Crapo has also spent time trying to figure out a solution.

Now, because our nation needs to get money into the economy to support jobs and livable incomes, there is a chance for the salmon to once again thrive by spawning up cooler rivers, migrating to the sea, and returning to spawn again.

Massive infrastructure spending is a proven way to get money into the economy and make our country more livable and competitive in the world. The House of Representatives will be writing the spending bill to provide the Federal Government’s contribution to the required funding. Rep. Simpson has seniority and is on the Appropriations Committee. His subcommittee assignments include energy, water, interior, and environment. Clearly, he has done the research and has the allies needed to get his plan passed. Sen. Crapo has the influence needed in the Senate, but he is running for reelection in 2022. His problem may be Idaho Republicans.

The Legislature, at this time, is not supporting Simpson at all. They are exhibiting the short-sightedness I often criticize them for. Yes, things will have to change. Simpson plans to provide federal dollars to do it. This is a multi-interest, deeply researched plan. It has not been put together to appease anyone but Mother Nature (who, sadly, cannot vote).

Idaho, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington are all stakeholders in this plan. Over a span of years, the changes will impact numerous municipalities and rural areas. They may develop inventive ideas for implementation. Less expensive transportation, power delivery, and farming technologies are already being developed. We, as a region, need to vote for the future and not the status quo. Mother Nature and the next generations will thank us for it.

Related Sites:
Simpson's announcement may be viewed here
Other documents associated his concept are available at

Linda Brugger, Moscow
We Can No Longer Damn the Salmon
Twin Times-News, March 18, 2021

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation