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Commentaries and editorials

Dams on the Snake River

by Cliff Looney
Argus Observer, March 17, 2021

In retrospect, the number of returning adult salmon was relatively level from 1938 through 1990.  The precipitous loss of returning chinook entering the Snake River (Figure 20) accounts for a major share of the decline that has occurred in total return to the Columbia -- Artificial Production Review, NW Power & Conservation Council I have been watching the back and forth in the arguments on preserving the lower Snake River dams for many years now. A plan proposed by Senator Simpson from Idaho represents the most balanced and progressive approach that we have yet seen.

The fact is, the dams need to come out. The fish are going to be extinct if we don't take them out. There are certainly qualifications and limitations on what taking the dams out can accomplish that cannot be defined at this point. The Simpson plan represents a lot of work and is apparently achieving a consensus of most of the players involved. The tribes, conservation groups, and even some of the commercial interests agree that the fish are sufficiently valuable to make them a priority.

Beyond that, the fish are a huge part of our heritage here in the Northwest. Anyone who has observed the fantastic impact of the salmon runs in Alaska can vouch for the recreation, aesthetics, and environmental impact that a good fish run would provide.

In reading last week's papers, I see that our Oregon State Representative, Cliff Bentz, has decided to oppose removing the dams. Probably my friend, Mr. Bentz, and I neither have a great deal of expertise in all the underlying policy and factual matters, but I do wish to express that his position seems ill-informed and short sighted, in view of all the work and experience we have in trying to resolve this problem for many years.

Taking out the dams is certainly going to incur some expense, but if you look carefully at Mr. Simpson's plan, he has done a lot to mitigate not only the loss of the dams, but also the economic impact that not having them in place might cause. The plan has a balance and needs to be examined closely. But saving the fish has tremendous value. There are other things that can be done and should be done to keep other nations from raiding our fish supplies, and more science and politics will be involved there, but it needs to move forward so that we can, once again, have a real salmon run in the Columbia, Snake and Canadian rivers.

Cliff Looney, Vale
Dams on the Snake River
Argus Observer, March 17, 2021

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