It's a dam mess


The "Salmon Salvation" article misses the point badly (HCN, 5/11/09). The obsession with the lower four dams on the Snake distracts from a much larger and more tangled problem. Although I, too, would like to see those dams go, the four lower Snake Dams are a relatively minor component of a vast set of problems; I doubt the claims that breaching will make much difference, even for individual stocks such as the fall chinook and Imnaha runs. Most scientific assessments suggest that very little additional habitat will come online as a result of breaching the dams, and that the major obstacles to spawning and migration remain upstream and downstream from those sites.

The longstanding habit of ignoring the tangled problems of transnational ocean management of the fisheries and of rapidly changing ocean climate loom much larger and are much less amenable to the sort of easy technological fix that is being sought by a rather narrow-mindedly obsessed group in Judge Redden's courtroom. The main problem with management right now is the inordinate take of salmon by non-local harvesters. For example, well over half of the southeast Alaska ocean chinook fishery relies on Columbia Basin stocks. We will never gain effective management of these stocks until we can calibrate them to ecological conditions, and that will never happen until we return harvest to the basin. This is a complicated, messy set of problems, and Redden's courtroom is not going to solve them.