Dams Must Come Down
by Barb Gazeley
In 1998 and 1999, I was a lawyer for the Oregon Department of Justice. I represented the state in a case called U.S. v. Oregon, long-term litigation among several federal agencies, the Columbia River treaty (Native American) tribes, and the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The case involves tribal fishing rights and the relationship between the salmon population and hydropower, habitat, hatcheries and harvest -- the "four H's." During the course of that year, as we did many mediations and I talked with tribal members, federal representatives and employees of the states' fisheries and wildlife agencies, it became apparent to me that until we pull out the dams on the Columbia and other rivers, the salmon population will continue to decline. Eventually, they will be extinct (or nearly so, like the current orca population).
Hatchery salmon compete with wild salmon and make the wild fish genetically weaker. Harvest limits can only do so much. Habitat restoration efforts may be dwarfed by the warming effects of climate change and the dams on our streams and rivers. It's likely that only removal of the hydropower dams on the mainstem Columbia River will have sufficient impact to allow the salmon to recover.
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