the film
Commentaries and editorials

Wrong Dam Plan

by Marvin J. Entel
Lewiston Tribune, December 20, 2023

Fall Chinook spawning habitat was lost long ago

Ice Harbor dam impounds a reservoir that allows thirteen farms to pump irrigation water from a higher elevation than from the natural river, saving up to 80 feet of head and significant pumping expense. Do you remember the idiom, "You are barking up the wrong tree?" Well, the same is true about the lower Snake River dams when it comes to salmon and steelhead preservation. You are barking at the wrong dams and here is why.

In the planning of the Hells Canyon complex in 1953, Idaho fish biologist Forrest Hauck indicated the building of the Hells Canyon dams would eliminate any chinook salmon and steelhead above the dams from their prime spawning grounds. The elimination of spawning grounds on the Snake River began in 1901 with Swan Falls Dam, Bliss Dam, completed in 1950, and C.J. Strike Dam in 1952. None included fish ladders.

The first on the middle Snake River was Brownlee Dam completed in 1958 by Idaho Power Co. Thousands of salmon passed, before this dam prevented upstream migration.

A quote from Fred Mensik's book reads, "The river substrate of the remaining habitat below Brownlee Dam is poor compared to that of the prime spawning ground above Brownlee Dam. Additionally, the Thousand Springs offered consistent water temperatures, key to successful fall chinook spawning."

Oxbow Dam, completed in 1961, and Hells Canyon Dam in 1967 are past their 50-year operating license. They aren't federal dams and don't require an act of Congress to remove. They have eliminated 90% of the prime spawning grounds for chinook.

So if you really want the return of fish to rebound in acceptable numbers, tear out these dams. The lower Snake River dams are not the problem.

Related Pages:
Fish Counts Tell the Story by Marvin Entel, Lewiston Tribune, 6/19/22
Reads It Differently by Marvin Entel, Lewiston Tribune, 5/24/22
Fish Not Extinct by Marvin J. Entel, Lewiston Tribune, 3/6/22
Agrees with Little by Marvin Entel, Lewiston Tribune, 1/26/20
Save Our Lakes by Marvin Entel, Lewiston Tribune, 2/3/19

Marvin J. Entel, Clarkston
Wrong Dam Plan
Lewiston Tribune, December 20, 2023

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