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Bluefish Responds to
Senator Larry Craig's Office

from Bluefish
e-mail sent June 29, 2001

George O'Connor,

It was nice to finally end the phone tag and speak with you yesterday. I am also glad that you helped to put me in touch with Dr. David Welch who provided valuable insight regarding improving ocean conditions and the science that will be available to us in three years time.

Some have argued that recent improvements in dam passage survival is being masked by poor ocean conditions. As we discussed in our phone conversation, Dr. David Welch has pointed out that Mother Nature is setting up a nice experiment of this hypothesis. Assuming we have good ocean productivity this year, then the ocean-effect hypothesis would be substantiated if good runs return despite this year's poor migration conditions. If poor runs return to Idaho in 2003, but relatively good runs continue to return to Hanford reach, then it will be clear that migration conditions are to blame. In light of this, I agree with the 2000 Biological Opinion that asks us to be patient as some important uncertainty is resolved.

As I mentioned on the phone, I host the website which serves as a public library for those interested in the plight of Idaho's wild Salmon and Steelhead. I post news and reports from all sides of the issue so that visitors can use the resource to make their own decisions based on an open and honest discussion of everyone's concerns.

I agree with your letter to me (dated May 17, 2001) which states, "What we must do is find a realistic, creative solution to restore the salmon with as little amount of negative impact on all citizens of the Northwest." I believe that this should be our goal when complying with the Endangered Species Act even though the Act does not specifically state that we must do so. My testimony to the federal caucus centered on this tenet, that no adverse economic effect need be felt due to the removal of the Lower Snake River dams and reservoirs, if indeed that proves necessary.

I would, however, take issue with your misleading statement that "In fact, recent scientific analysis by both ocean biologists and even some freshwater biologists have indicated that dams are not a major factor in declining salmon stocks." In the case of Idaho's anadromous fish I have not seen anything to support this statement but I welcome you to supply substantiating information. In fact, the federal governments $20 million biological study concluded that the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) creates the greatest man-caused mortality to Idaho's wild Salmon and Steelhead.

On the web page I have organized the Downstream Migration Survival data that was presented in the Draft 2000 FCRPS Biological Opinion, Appendix B (Tables B-7 through B-23) and the Final 2000 FCRPS Biological Opinion (Table 6.2). Starting with 1000 Fall Chinook arriving at Lewiston, only 74 fish survive downstream migration through the FCRPS. On a five-year average, 400 of these fish never made it to the first dam, Lower Granite, where they might have been collected for barge transportation.

It is worth noting that mortality in this first reservoir behind Lower Granite dam, is considered as "first-year mortality" by Kareiva, Marvier, McClure report in the journal Science (11/3/00) which concludes "modest reductions in first-year mortality or estuarine mortality would reverse current population declines."

The Final 2000 FCRPS Biological Opinion rests heavily upon the Science report, recommending that extraordinary efforts be made toward improving survival above and below the dams in the hopes that this might be enough to save the salmon and save the Lower Snake River dams. If money is not secured for these efforts by 2003, the Army Corps of Engineers will ask Congress for authorization to remove the four Lower Snake River dams. Securing these funds is necessary for the survival of these four federal dams. As of now, however, it appears that these funds are not forthcoming.

Further study of the web page reveals that it is not so much the dams as it is in the reservoirs where the majority of anadromous fish mortality occurs.

As regards to the fax that you received from me concerning California's Energy Crisis, you need not provide a reply as our phone conversation of that topic will suffice. The need to secure funding to improve survival above and below the FCRPS dams cannot be overemphasized by those who wish the Lower Snake dams to remain. If these dams must go, however, we will readily be able to replace the 1200 megawatts that these four dams provide on an average water year. In the next two weeks, California will be bringing more than 1300 megawatts on line (see ). According to the California Energy Commission website, 23,000 megawatts on new electricity generation will become available to the Western states by December 2003 (see ).

A large part of California's new electricity will be provided by natural gas turbines which are basically modified jet engines. The 1200 megawatts that the Lower Snake River provides on an average water year could be replaced with the equivalent of the engines from four 747 jets. Aside from the obvious cost-competitive benefit of natural gas turbines, these efficient energy sources can be located near electric demand alleviating bottlenecks in our transmission system. Furthermore, these modified jet engines will provide electricity when it is needed which is unlike hydro systems which provide hydroelectricity only when it is available.

I look forward to discussing this issue further with you and with Senator Craig. The challenges that once seemed insurmountable are now achievable. By promoting an honest and open discussion we can "find methods which restore salmon while ensuring the economic viability of the Northwest."

Best Regards,

Scott Levy

Related Pages:
Letter from Larry Craig's Office

Articles referring to Science article by Kareiva, Marvier, McClure:
U.S. Makes Scientific Case to Keep Snake Dams Intact
Scientists Publish Argument Against Breaching Dams
Science Shifting on Dam Removal
Dam Removal: Too Little, Too Late for Salmon?
Can Science Rescue Salmon?
Science Shifting on Dam Removal
Science Groups: Don't Discount Breaching

Bluefish Responds to Larry Craig's Office
Letter to Constituents - June 29, 2001

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