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Salmon Debate

by Paula Davina
Idaho Statesman, December 21, 2016

The earliest dams were constructed to control floods.

Graphic: Pinniped numbers at Bonneville Dam by date January through May 2015. The narrow focus of the discussion on salmon runs and dams concerns me. There is no mention in this discussion of other causes for salmon and steelhead decline. This discussion needs to look further at related issues than putting these two factors in isolation.

There is the focus that dams are for the sole purpose of hydroelectric generation. The earliest dams were constructed to control floods. The FEMA floodplain will be far larger all the way down the river if we start tearing out dams.

There is serious destruction of these fish species in the lower Columbia River. In 2011 and '12, more than 80 percent of the fish reached Bonneville Dam, but in 2014, only 55 percent got that far. This is the last dam on the river. They aren't getting to the first dam. Sea lions began colonizing the lower Columbia River after they became "endangered" in 1972. As far as archaeologists can tell, they were relative strangers in this area in prehistoric times. Microchip tracking shows those fish tagged in March, when sea lions are abundant, most often vanished. After sea lions decamped in May for their California mating grounds, salmon survival shot up.

Paula Davina, Eagle
Salmon Debate
Idaho Statesman, December 21, 2016

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