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For Wild Fish, the Numbers are Not Good

by Michael Garrity
The News Tribune, July 14, 2009

Re: "Fish counts show dam removal isn't needed" (letter, 7-12).

The writer claims that Snake River salmon and steelhead are doing just fine. His conclusion is based on fish counts at Bonneville Dam, the first dam encountered by returning adult salmon in the Columbia-Snake River system.

There are two big problems with using generic Bonneville fish counts to assess the health of Snake River salmon far upstream.

First, the numbers include both hatchery and wild salmon, when wild fish - the ones needed to sustain healthy salmon runs over the long-term - comprise only about 20 percent of Snake River spring/summer chinook returns.

Second, the writer ignores the fact that eight dams up the system at Lower Granite Dam, wild spring/summer chinook returns over the last few years have been no better than when the fish were first listed as "threatened" in the early 1990s. Treading water should not be confused with sustainable recovery.

Even Sen. Mike Crapo, a conservative Idaho Republican, is now calling for including removal of the four lower Snake River dams in negotiations over how to manage the Snake River to meet the needs of inland Northwest communities and salmon. The Obama administration and Washington's congressional delegation should follow Crapo's lead.

Michael Garrity, Washington conservation director of American Rivers.
For Wild Fish, the Numbers are Not Good
The News Tribune, July 14, 2009

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