Decades of research have confirmed that transporting Idaho salmon around hundreds of miles of natural predators and downstream dams increases salmon runs, but the process is not “natural,” and those seeking to destroy the Snake River dams, led by the State of Oregon, have long opposed the program. They would rather divert juvenile salmon over spillways, eroding electric power benefits from the dams, and thereby building their case for dam removal.
By 2015, they had reduced the percentage of fish transported to only 13 percent. In September, results of an annual transportation study became available to show that four times as many juvenile Chinook salmon transported in 2015 later returned to Idaho as adults, as compared to the juveniles consigned to the river.
These results confirm that Oregon and its extreme environmentalist allies killed most of the Idaho fish in 2015, appreciably reducing adult runs this year. And if climate change continues to produce warm, dry years like 2015, serious carnage by mismanagement will continue, and pose a very serious threat to Idaho salmon.
Oregon Federal District Judge Michael Simon has been presiding over attacks on the dams for several years. He ruled in April that additional spill should generally be provided, but he also held that “each dam is unique and an ‘across the board’ approach to spill is likely not the most effective means to increase salmon survival at each dam.”
Oregon is now telling the judge that he has already decided, contrary to all available evidence, that transportation doesn’t work, and we must massively increase spill at all Snake River dams, even if it means far fewer fish will be transported from the collector projects.
In secret meetings, federal fish scientists have told Oregon that high spill will also create a “toilet bowl” circulation pattern at two or more of collector projects that may prevent returning adults from finding fish ladders, but Oregon does not care.
It relies upon a simplistic computer model that predicts that more spill means more fish by ignoring dam-specific conditions.
Within the last month, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Independent Scientific Advisory Board has warned that Oregon’s model is meaningless when considering spill at collector projects, but Oregon is not interested in the facts. Oregon is only interested in dam removal.
The communities who depend upon Snake River Dams and the return of Idaho salmon and steelhead now watch Judge Simon with bated breath. Will he be an emperor who applauds the exceedingly fine gold cloth brought before him by the State of Oregon, or will he recognize that where increasing spill at collector projects is concerned, Oregon stands with the con-men weavers of Hans Christian Andersen’s famous tale?
James Buchal is the author of “The Great Salmon Hoax” and represents the Columbia Snake River Irrigators Association, which is seeking the opportunity to present transportation evidence to Judge Simon.