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Commentaries and editorials

Science Does Not Support Dam Breaching

by John McKern
Walla Walla Union Bulletin, December 19, 2011

I am glad Bert Bowler reads the U-B in Boise., an environmental web service in Boise, called me just before his letter appeared criticizing the U-B editorial on Judge Redden's removing himself from the breach the dams lawsuit. Bluefish wanted to know why I oppose breaching the dams when 86 percent of biologists favor it.

I said the science does not support dam breaching. Because of the efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with Bonneville Power Administration support, juvenile fish survival is now over 96 percent and adult survival is over 99.5 percent per dam. I told how to access research and dam improvement information from the Corps and that the 86 percent are probably ignorant of or don't care about the hundreds of studies done and the fish survival improvements they have supported over the past 60 years.

I recently wrote a letter to the U-B about the Corps' Anadromous Fish Evaluation Program review at Whitman College. No biologist can keep up with the current science without attending these reviews each year. I have known Bert since the 1970s when he worked for Idaho Department of Fish and Game. I don't remember him attending many AFEP reviews then and none since he retired about 10 years ago.

Bert talked about a lot of myths in his scathing review of the U-B editorial. There is one myth that is clear to me. Breaching the dams is not the magic bullet Bert and the other 86 percent of biologists think it is. It would do very little to increase salmon survival above the increases coming from the actions the Corps and BPA are already taking.

The federal agencies are mitigating impacts caused by these four dams, and they are mitigating other human impacts caused by other federal and non-federal dams, logging, mining, irrigation, urban development, pollution and myriad effects not caused by the dams. Between these actions and stricter regulation of fisheries, record runs are returning.

Environmental groups have publicly targeted the lower Snake River dams since Idaho first advocated breaching in 1991. It appears that no amount of science will dispel their myth that dam breaching will save the salmon. It appears that the salmon are being saved in spite of their mantra, even though they have caused millions of dollars to be wasted in fruitless lawsuits and delayed fish-saving measures as the federal agencies respond to their myths.

John McKern, Walla Walla
Science Does Not Support Dam Breaching
Walla Walla Union Bulletin, December 19, 2011

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