the film
Commentaries and editorials

Science and Salmon Returns

by Terry Flores
The Oregonian, August 19, 2010

In his Aug. 16 opinion piece, Bob Rees, president of the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association and a fishing guide, ignores the most up-to-date salmon science and fails to mention that sport and commercial fishing significantly reduce the number of salmon returning to spawn ("Columbia River salmon: The Fishermen's Plan is Starting to Work").

The science shows that transporting fish results in higher adult returns, in almost all cases, than keeping them in the rivers, according to NOAA Science Center's recent review of 20 years of data. Spilling water through the dams kills fish if not used cautiously as it creates harmful gas levels in the river and gives the fish the bends.

Virtually everyone agrees that excellent ocean conditions are the prime reason we're seeing some of the highest fish runs this decade since 1938. And, nearly everyone also agrees that the tribal, state and federal salmon plan's comprehensive approach of hatchery reforms, habitat restoration and hydro improvements also is making a big difference.

But most extreme of all is ignoring the elimination of tens of thousands of river-related jobs if the lower Snake River dams were destroyed, for uncertain fish benefits at best. Nor does Rees mention the carbon emissions from the gas and coal power plants that would be needed to replace the clean, renewable and emissions-free energy from the dams.

bluefish notes: Although contacted repeatedly, NW River Partners has yet to provide substantiation of the statement "elimination of tens of thousands of river-related jobs if the lower Snake River dams were destroyed."

Lower Snake River Juvenile Salmon Migration Feasibility Report/Environmental Impact Statement

Regional Economic Development, Social Resources, and Communities

Lower Snake River Region

Regional impacts under Alternatives 2 and 3 would be relatively minor.

There could be minor job gains associated with implementation costs, avoided costs, and anadromous fish harvest.

Alternative 4 -- Dam Breaching would result in a number of jobs in the region being permanently lost, with others permanently gained. Job losses are anticipated as a result of projected reductions in irrigated farmland, reductions in spending by the Corps, and the loss of barge transportation and cruise ship operations. Permanent job gains are expected to result from replacement power facilities, changes in recreation activity, and long-term implementation expenditures. Permanent job losses are projected to be larger than permanent gains, with a net long-term loss of 1,372 jobs in the lower Snake River region.

Breaching the dams would generate a substantial number of short-term jobs in the lower Snake River. These jobs are primarily expected to occur as a result of construction activities associated with replacement power facilities, recreation facilities, transportation infrastructure, pump and well modification, and project implementation.

Relatively large short-term employment is expected to be associated with power plant construction (5,572 jobs) and transportation facilities construction (6,982 jobs). These totals represent the maximum annual employment that would occur in each case. The maximum short-term employment gain projected for any one year is 14,871.

Pacific Northwest

The preceding section only addresses those changes that are expected to occur in the lower Snake River area. Alternative 4 -- Dam Breaching would also have effects that would either occur throughout the Pacific Northwest or in an area of the region outside of the lower Snake River area. Additional jobs would be permanently lost, with others permanently gained. Job losses would mainly be associated with projected increases in electricity bills (2,382 jobs). Permanent job gains are expected to result from replacement power facilities (located outside the lower Snake River area), changes in transportation, and changes in commercial and ocean recreational fishing. There would also be short-term job gains associated with construction activities that would take place outside the lower Snake River area (power plant construction and railcar storage construction).

The overall regional impacts of Alternative 4 -- Dam Breaching for the Pacific Northwest are illustrated in the figure below, which shows the projected annual net change in employment for project years 1 through 50. This figure illustrates that the maximum annual net employment gain for the region as a whole would be 11,384 jobs in project year 5. In the long term, the projected number of permanent job losses is expected to be larger than permanent gains, with a net long-term loss of 2,290 jobs in the region as a whole.


Under Alternatives 2 and 3, effects on communities would generally be minor. Some communities upriver may be adversely affected by lower probabilities of salmon recovery. Uncertainty surrounding the future of the dams may negatively affect some communities. Coastal communities could receive minor economic benefits from increased fish runs if salmon returns increase significantly.

Under Alternative 4, upriver communities would likely gain jobs from recreation and tourism associated with a near-natural river and increased fish runs. Job losses may occur in the forest products sector as a result of the loss of river navigation. Communities in the reservoir subregion would likely experience a net decrease in employment due to reductions in Corps employment and increased pressure on family farms. Downriver communities would lose jobs if farms currently irrigated from the Ice Harbor reservoir go out of business. These losses would be partially offset by gains in transportation-and power generation-related employment. Coastal communities would receive economic benefits from increased fish runs.

Adverse community effects perceived by residents of communities in the lower Snake River region include decreases in population, tax revenues, businesses, property values, agricultural base, decreased quality of schools, as well as increased traffic congestion and business failures. Other lower Snake River region communities with more tourist-oriented economics perceived benefits. Residents of Southern Idaho communities perceived impacts ranging from somewhat beneficial to very adverse. Beneficial effects were associated with increased fish runs. Negative effects included increased transportation and utility costs.

Low Income and/or Minority Populations
Tribal representatives stated that Alternatives 1, 2, and 3 would do "little or nothing" to correct the cumulative inequities that tribes have suffered from construction and operation of the four dams. Under Alternative 4 -- Dam Breaching, increased salmon runs would benefit the tribes, as would the exposure of approximately 14,000 acres of currently inundated lands. Conversely, Hispanic workers employed on farms irrigated from the Ice Harbor reservoir would be disproportionally affected if these farms go out of business as a result of Alternative 4 -- Dam Breaching.

bluefish notes:
Projected job loss is greatly dependent upon the assumption that "these farms go out of business as a result of Alternative 4 -- Dam Breaching" Ironically, the same report discusses how irrigation would continue by extending intake pipes to the lower natural river and upgrading pumping stations. A gravity fed irrigation alternative was proposed in testimony to the Federal Caucus

Terry Flores, Southwest Portland, Flores is executive director of Northwest River Partners.
Science and Salmon Returns
The Oregonian, August 19, 2010

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation