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Hail to the salmon chief?

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Could there be a new big fish coming to the pond that is our nation’s capitol?

Commercial and recreational fishermen are urging President Obama to create a new position in his administration: salmon director.

But don’t be fooled by the title. The job interview won’t include a thorough vetting on sauté skills and work with a barbecue or broiler. The salmon director would develop and coordinate restoration policy in states where the tasty and environmentally troubled fish swims.

More than 75 fishing organizations from six Pacific states -– California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Alaska –- signed a letter sent Monday to Obama asking for the new post. Dwindling numbers of the fish have virtually shut down the West Coast's commercial salmon fishing industry over the past two seasons.

The letter urges the Obama administration to begin work immediately in creating the position to “protect and restore dwindling populations of Pacific salmon and steelhead and the tens of thousands of jobs in our states that depend upon them.”

Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Assns. said creation of the position right inside the walls of the White House would “send a strong signal” to hard-hit fishing communities that the president “is committed to correcting past failure” and putting salmon on the road to recovery.

No word from Obama on the prospects for the new post.

-- Eric Bailey

Photo: A fisherman with catch. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

 
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The fifth and perhaps the greatest of falsehoods when so called experts discuss breaching the four dams on the Lower Snake is, "Wild salmon lost to dams are replaced by equally as healthy farm raised salmon."

Nothing could be further from the truth.

If we believe what we are told by salmon farming PR marketing types...that environmentally “controlled” salmon farming ensures purity and safety, we are in for a surprise. Farmed salmon are full of antibiotics, pesticides, growth hormones, genetically modified organisms, and synthetic coloring agents to give the fillets the rich red-orange color we look for in our fish markets.

Infections that are now showing up in crowded farm pens, concentrated "fish excrement" accumulating beneath the pens are becoming a serious problem, and the unknown impact of thousands of escaped non-native Atlantic salmon into Pacific salmon waters could be a future disaster.

Now the wild salmon... long considered a prime delicacy, from it's radiant orange color, to its flavorful taste and delicate texture. Wild salmon flesh is firm, farmed salmon is not. Wild salmon provides us with low glycemic blood sugar stabilizing proteins, omega-3 fatty acids known as EPA and DHA, for cardio-protective properties and the inhibiting of tumor development in hormone sensitive cancers.

Beside being rich in antioxidents and anti-inflamatories, guess what, the wild salmon go a long way in promoting healthy hair and longer living youthful skin.

And the best fact of all is the wild salmon survives all by itself when given the chance. The fish does not need dams, concrete irrigation ditches, pesticides, and exhaust from combustion engines to produce a food item to feed a family of four for a week....

...one forty pound Idaho chinook salmon will do that.

Before the four dams on the Lower Snake river in Idaho over 3,000,000 wild salmon returned to the streams and creeks every year. Now only a few thousand do.

If the dams are breached natures #1 most healthy food will thrieve again.

The fourth most often used statement when experts talk about breaching the four dams on the Lower Snake is, "Oh no. You can't do that. Losing the valuable barge traffic to the Port of Lewistonn would be an economic disaster to the region."

Not true. That's what the four-dam-lock-system is now, a disaster to salmon, a burden to local taxpayers who must suffer property tax over rides to subsidize the port...and receive almost no economic benefit in return.

Lewiston, Idaho was a rough and tumble Gold Rush town in the 1860's, located 465 miles from the Pacific Ocean, up the Columbia, to the confluence of the Snake and the Clearwater Rivers.

As the gold rush began to fade in 1860, local businessmen, no doubt drinking at Cyrus Skinner's saloon, the desperado and San Quenten escapee, began to fantasize about damming the Snake and building a shipping lane all the way to the ocean.

Believe it or not, the idea gained legs and support and was being discussed in Washington... until the 1930's. The railroad barons won out and constructed railroads up the Columbia and the Snake to Lewiston and sister city Clarkston creating a more efficent method of transport.

The dream did not die. Shortly after the end of World War II, 1947-48, the Inland Empire Waterways Association was formed to promote the construction of a four dam lock system on a section of the Lower Snake down stream from Lewiston.

Fish and Game Departments adamantly objected to the dams every step of the way. They knew what would happen to the worlds largest run of salmon numbering in the millions.

Politics and influence won out over the fish. By 1955 Ice Harbor Dam was engineered and by 1961 completed. The other three were completed by 1975, and the boondoggle inland seaport was a reality. Returning salmon numbers began to drop drastically the next year.

In a few years it was obvious the system was not to be the economic success the promoters touted. Use of the river by barges has dropped to around 700 trips per year...120 of the 700 carry salmon and steelhead smolts through the four deadly hydro electric systems, an exercise deadly in itself. It takes 47 hours to travel the 120 mile distance downstream below the last dam.

The barges can't collect all the smolts. Millions more are removed from the river, dumped in trucks, and driven 120 miles bypassing the dams and dumped back in the Columbia. And...many more of the smolts are never picked up. They arrive early before the collection begins, and arrive later, after the last barge and truck has left. Those fish have no choice but to swim through the generators and be ground into fish meal.

The dams cost taxpayers more to operate than the Panama Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway combined. Why? The ocean going ships using them pay lockage fees. The barges using the four dams pay no lockage fees and the grain shippers, the last major customer of the system, only pay 10% of the cost. Taxpayers pay the other 90%.

Interestingly...roads run along the south side of the river and a railroad runs along the north side of the river.

Grain shippers argue shipping that way would be to costly. Hog Wash ! The federal government subsidizes their shipping costs anyway.

Solely blaming fishermen (see above) or oceanic conditions (see http://www.sacbee.com/capitolandcalifornia/story/1688882.html) for Pacific-salmon declines is pretty lame. Unfortunately, perceptions of the cause of Pacific-salmonid problems differs greatly among groups because of their special interests and inability to compromise, as managers and scientists emphasize habitat and overfishing impacts and disregard other predation (pinniped and ocean drift-net) impacts; the fishing lobby blames habitat loss, predators, and mismanagement and disregards fishing and hatchery impacts; and the public blames pollution and ocean drift-net impacts and disregards predator impacts. The only commonality of all three groups (albeit that has been changing in the last decade) is their discounting of poor ocean conditions (e.g., warming) for salmonid declines, even though such conditions benefit salmonid predators. The concerned public emphasizes the need for an environmental and socioeconomic balance and watershed protection to restore Pacific Northwest and other anadromous salmonids. Unfortunately, meetings with commercial fishers have not improved consensus with managers and scientists, although fishery and job diversification by these Pacific anglers has been adaptive for angler and salmon survival. Literature reviews/summaries and simulation analyses together suggest that various inland and oceanic factors are important for salmonid declines in the Pacific Northwest, such that control of predators, hatchery fishes, and exotic species; regulation of fishing and logging harvests; and enhancement of rearing habitat and dam-passage facilities should all benefit population viability in the Puget Sound, Columbia River, and other estuarine catchments on the North American west coast.

Nevertheless, certain human impacts may be more detrimental than others on anadromous salmonids, notably dam blockage of migrations and resultant inundation of spawning and rearing habitat that is making reservoir enlargement more feasible than new dam-building and is stimulating dam breaching (a) on the Atlantic coast and (b) in the Pacific Northwest for salmon and other anadromous fishes. Indeed, dam operations (including flow impacts) are especially likely culprits for major declines of (a) coastal-salmonid runs in Puget Sound and (b) interior runs of salmonid and other anadromous fishes in the Fraser and Columbia River basins and San Francisco Bay catchment, especially considering that upstream habitats in Olympic National Park, WA, Willamette River, OR, and Snake River, ID are in good condition. Indeed, (a) Atlantic salmon in Maine and (b) Chinook and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest show negative spatiotemporal-abundance relations to the number of downstream (migration-corridor) dams, although sedimentary and woody-cover damage to tributary pools are likely also important for salmonid and salamander declines in the latter region. As such, one of the strongest native-Chinook populations is the fall run in the free-flowing, scenic-pristine Hanford Reach in the mid-Columbia River mainstem, where sockeye, mountain whitefish (Prosopium williamsoni), and Catostomus suckers also spawn. Likewise, the strongest summer runs of wild Chinook, steelhead, and Pacific lamprey are in larger, relatively free-flowing Columbia River tributaries such as the John Day and some mid-Columbia rivers, the only mainstem-spawning population of chum salmon is downstream of all dams in the Columbia River near Ives Island, and the originally headwater-oriented Pacific lamprey, native coho, and sea-run cutthroat have been concentrated downstream of all dams since the 1960s when human impacts became intense. Hence, artificial fish transport or changes in flow releases may not be enough to restore anadromous-salmonid and landlocked-sturgeon runs in the Columbia River basin, such that restoration of (a) hydrologic and habitat resources and (b) fish migrations and genetic diversity via dam breaching may be the best (most economically beneficial) approach. The mainstem-oriented Chinook, pink and chum salmon are especially vulnerable to hydropower-dam impacts in the Skagit and Columbia rivers.

The third most often used statement when so called experts talk about breaching the four dams on the Lower Snake is, "The irrigators that draw water from the dams will be out of business and will lose valuable crops and farm jobs."

Not true. Only one of the dams is used for irrigation, Ice Harbor. The other three, Lower Granite, Little Goose, and Lower Monumental, are slack water pools with "ghost" seaports that are rarely visited by a barge.

Here's the zinger. Only thirteen farmers pump water from Ice Harbor. Yep, only thirteen...and fellow taxpayers, these farmers receive millions of dollars from the federal government each year in pumping subsidies.

That's okay. Breach the dams and let the salmon swim thru. The farmers can continue to wallow in the public taxpayer trough. All they have to do is lower their pumps to the new river level.

The second most often used statement when so called experts talk about breaching the four dams on the Lower Snake is, "We will lose hydro electric power and many energy related jobs."

Not true. The four dams can't store water for release when it's most needed, mid summer through fall and winter. The only time they are profitable is when there is a glut of power on the market...spring run-off.

The dams are a system of four locks similar to the Panama Canal, a part of a boondoggle waterway that serves the almost bankrupt "Pacific Ocean Inland Seaport" of Lewiston. Idaho. The water that comes in runs out. None is stored. And the slack water reserviors are so silted in the shallow channel must constantly be dredged by the Army Corps of Engineers, a cost that runs into millions of dollars.

The most recent data on the Columbia River shows downstream and upstream survival comparable if not higher than rivers without dams. The crusade against the dams will not only fail to save tens of thousands of fishing jobs (which can only be saved by harvest reform, but destroy far larger numbers of energy-dependent jobs.

The most often used statement when so-called experts talk about saving the salmon is..."We need to restore spawning habitat."

Not true in Idaho. There are over 4,600 miles of pristine rivers and streams in the state located on National Forest lands and the Frank Church-River of No Return and the Bitteroot-Selway Wilderness Areas. Once millions of salmon returned to these rivers...now only a few thousand.

What has caused the decline? The four dams on the Lower Snake River, dams built for barge traffic for a failed inland Pacific seaport project, run-of-the-river dams, not water storage or flood control dams, dams that created 120 miles of over heated slack water deadly to salmon much of the year.

If the dams are breached, a definite option being considered, the fish will be back.

What a lot of salmon fishermen really want is not a bailout but a real effort by the federal government to help restore what they have the most control over: in-river habitat. The coast-wide salmon crisis is not the mystery that hydropower, irrigation and administration officials claim. Ocean conditions will always contribute both benefits and dangers for salmon survival but if the fish can’t even get out to sea – inland is where the problem lies. The salmon crisis is largely a consequence of federal agencies ignoring or suppressing science and sacrificing the long-term wellbeing of wild salmon, fishing families, and fishing communities for short-term political gain. Out-dated dams, record water diversions and the Bush Administration’s delay tactics have taken a lethal toll on wild salmon. In light of this, I think having someone in the Obama Administration to help reign in the federal agency shenanigans makes a lot of sense.

What a lot of salmon fishermen really want is not a bailout but a real effort by the federal government to help restore what they have the most control over: in-river habitat. The coast-wide salmon crisis is not the mystery that hydropower, irrigation and administration officials claim. Ocean conditions will always contribute both benefits and dangers for salmon survival but if the fish can’t even get out to sea – inland is where the problem lies.

The salmon crisis is largely a consequence of federal agencies ignoring or suppressing science and sacrificing the long-term wellbeing of wild salmon, fishing families, and fishing communities for short-term political gain. Out-dated dams, record water diversions and the Bush Administration’s delay tactics have taken a lethal toll on wild salmon.

In light of this, I think having someone in the Obama Administration to help reign in the federal agency shenanigans makes a lot of sense.

Fishermen, both Native and non-Native, definitely take some fish.
Dams, however, take millions. 50 to 80 percent of ocean-bound juveniles get gobbled up in one of the 4 snake river dams or one of the 4 columbia dams. Another big chunk get killed trying to get back up through the 8 dams as adults. Ocean fishing takes only about 1 percent of adults; in-river fishing typically around 2 percent. Maybe fishing makes a little difference at the margins, like habitat restoration work, but to make any kind of lasting and significant difference, more systemic changes are needed. In the Columbia Basin, that's the four Snake River dams. In California, perhaps it's water allocation. In any event, we've spent too long thrashing around, and a Salmon Director would bring focus and coherence to bear on the issue.

Fishermen, both Native and non-Native, definitely take some fish.
Dams, however, take millions. 50 to 80 percent of ocean-bound juveniles get gobbled up in one of the 4 snake river dams or one of the 4 columbia dams. Another big chunk get killed trying to get back up through the 8 dams as adults. Ocean fishing takes only about 1 percent of adults; in-river fishing typically around 2 percent. Maybe fishing makes a little difference at the margins, like habitat restoration work, but to make any kind of lasting and significant difference, more systemic changes are needed. In the Columbia Basin, that's the four Snake River dams. In California, perhaps it's water allocation. In any event, we've spent too long thrashing around, and a Salmon Director would bring focus and coherence to bear on the issue.

Fishermen, both Native and non-Native, definitely take some fish.
Dams, however, take millions. 50 to 80 percent of ocean-bound juveniles get gobbled up in one of the 4 snake river dams or one of the 4 columbia dams. Another big chunk get killed trying to get back up through the 8 dams as adults. Ocean fishing takes only about 1 percent of adults; in-river fishing typically around 2 percent. Maybe fishing makes a little difference at the margins, like habitat restoration work, but to make any kind of lasting and significant difference, more systemic changes are needed. In the Columbia Basin, that's the four Snake River dams. In California, perhaps it's water allocation. In any event, we've spent too long thrashing around, and a Salmon Director would bring focus and coherence to bear on the issue.

Fishing is the backbone of our economy on the Pacific Coast. The federal agencies under the Bush administration abandoned endangered salmon populations and fishermen and crippled salmon-dependent communities, leaving us with no choice but to fight for our livelihoods in court. We need a leader who can bring us out of this crisis.

We are thankful for the disaster relief, but we don’t want to have to depend on the federal government to bail us out every year because our salmon populations are collapsing year after year. With so many agencies involved in salmon recovery efforts, we need someone who we know, who is accountable, and who has decision-making authority — someone who can cut through the web of bureaucracy and bring this fish back home.

It's about time. Idaho once had salmon runs in the millions. The fish have dwindled to a few thousand because of four dams constructed on the lower Snake River to create an inland sea port at Lewiston, Idaho. The dams are boondoggle projects that cost the taxpayers close to a billion dollars each year for salmon recovery that doesn't work.

Next, after ever increasing harvests by Natives using GILL NETS, trawlers sweeping everything from their paths, special interests in agri and power, and unbridled POLLUTION, these same 'fisherman' (more like bushwhackers and Wall Streeters) will be CRYING for a BAIL OUT. Salmon (real, not that farmed crap) goes for $16-20 a pound....as 'fishermen' rape more and more, driving the species into extinction. EVERY state, including Alaska, and British Columbia, whose capitol, Victoria, dumps 34 million gallons of raw, untreated sewage a day, into Puget Sound waters, is guilty of economic GREED. Next extinct fish species will be pollock - harvests have DOUBLED for past 5 years....oh, my POOR fishermen! Time for a lobbyist stooge to become Czar!

Man I'm pretty sick of the whole "czar" thing. Suddenly anyone who might lead a department is referred to as a czar. Pretty tired out description.

The message from the fishing community is loud and clear: we need change on the Pacific Coast. For decades, the federal government has mismanaged our freshwater habitat in the West's three signature rivers — the Sacramento, the Klamath and the Columbia-Snake. Their disregard for these iconic fish and the jobs and communities they support has been a slap in the face. And many elected leaders have failed to step in to lead.

The Obama administration has vowed to restore science and guide our country away from its tight grip on the status quo. Now is the time for that action in the West. We desperately need leadership and this Salmon Director position is exactly what we need.


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