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Commentaries and editorials

McKern Letter:
Salmon Runs

by John McKern
Idaho Statesman, January 2, 2016

This Sockeye adult is the first to return of 2015 to Idaho's Redfish Lake near Stanley, Idaho As a former Army Corps of Engineers biologist, I believe Don Chapman's Dec. 7 guest opinion is a disservice to the discussion about how we continue improving salmon runs while producing carbon-free hydropower.

Dams above Hells Canyon blocked the main river plus all major tributaries before the lower Snake River dams. By 1959, when Brownlee Dam was completed, 55 percent of the spring/summer and 85 percent of the fall Chinook spawning habitat was gone.

Idaho Departmenet of Fish and Game data shows spawning bottomed out in 1995 after a decade of drought in the Snake Basin. Only 1,797 spring/summer Chinook passed over Lower Granite Dam, creating only 264 redds. This year, over 132,000 spring/summer Chinook crossed Lower Granite and created over 4,100 redds. Many streams in Idaho have spawning salmon now that had none in the 1950s.

In 1939 less than 500,000 total salmon crossed Bonneville Dam. Almost 2.3 million total salmon crossed Bonneville Dam this year, following a record 2.66 million in 2014. Over 1.2 million fall Chinook crossed Bonneville, returning over 70,000 to Idaho this year. Anglers enjoyed expanded catch limits and fish were put above Brownlee Dam where tribal fishermen caught salmon for the first time in a century in Southern Idaho.

Related Pages:
Lower Snake River Dams Provide Outstanding Value to the Nation by Lt. Col. Timothy Vail, Tri-City Herald, 9/30/15
Dam Breaching Gets a Surprise Endorsement by Rocky Barker, High Country News, 9/19/5
Let's Start Talking About Delisting Sockeye by Scott Levy, Capital Press, 11/19/14
Count the Fish, 1977-2010 Salmon Recovery Efforts, by Government Accountability Office

John McKern, Walla Walla, Washington
McKern Letter: Salmon Runs
Idaho Statesman, January 2, 2016

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