The Right Decision at a Critical Timeby Olney 'JP' Patt
Opinion, The Oregonian, August 13, 2004
The decision by U.S. District Judge James Redden last month to allow the August fish spills at Columbia River dams points federal fish policy in the right direction: toward the sustainable future of the Chinook salmon, one of the most economically important species in the Northwest.
Both Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the federal court have shown the courage and wisdom to make a balanced, science-based decision that is in the long-term economic and ecological interests of the people of Oregon and the northwest Pacific Coast. History will show that this is a turning point in key public policy in restoring the fall Chinook run in the Columbia.
What was key to their logic was to account for the entire true costs of the lost salmon and the people they sustain in the decision-making process. A possible savings of a few cents on monthly electric bills does not balance the loss of the fall Chinook and the benefits they provide to all of us.
For Columbia River salmon, the result of Redden's decision will be a stronger, more sustainable future for the fishery: An estimated 30,000 fall Chinook, those that can be caught and enjoyed by the public, will likely be available for sport, commercial and tribal fishing and will provide a healthy protein source for Oregonians and other people in Alaska, British Columbia and Washington.
Technology has been the source of the problems affecting salmon survival, and our better understanding of fish science and new technologies can offer some possible solutions. The installation of removable fish weirs at Columbia River dams can help more fish survive, while reducing the amount of spill necessary. Two Snake River dams are being fitted with these weirs. Kulongoski has called for the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to install the same technology on Bonneville Dam and The Dalles Dam.
I applaud Gov. Kulongoski and Judge Redden for making the right decision at a critical time. The federal government has appealed Redden's ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and that court's decision is pending. But one thing is clear: It's not worth a few pennies to each of us now to kill our salmon for future generations.
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