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Restoring the Lower Snake River

top.ten.cropFor years now, federal agencies -- most recently under the direction of the Bush administration -- have done and said some pretty absurd things when it comes to restoring salmon in the Pacific Northwest's Columbia-Snake River Basin.  Instead of taking a hard look at the science, the law, and the economics, these agencies have bent over backwards to protect the anti-salmon status quo -- all at the expense of real salmon recovery and real salmon jobs.

Below are the Top 10 Most Ridiculous Things that federal agencies do in the name of salmon "recovery." But let's not kid ourselves, things aren't working in this watershed -- for salmon or for people.  The question remains, will the Obama Administration opt to follow in its predecessors' footsteps by continuing to do and say these ten ridiculous things, or will they take seriously the challenge to bring salmon back to our rivers and oceans?

And the Top 10 ridiculous things the federal government says and does to save the four lower Snake River dams instead of saving Snake River salmon are:

#10 Continue to spend tons of federal money on actions we KNOW don’t work.

Who needs Wall Street bonuses when the federal government has spent more than $8 billion of your dollars on the same actions they have employed for years to “recover salmon,” without actually recovering any of these salmon? And the federal government continues to allow federal dams to kill up to 90% of young salmon (pushing many runs closer to extinction). Struggling fishing communities have been forced to ask Congress for disaster relief money every year because of continued salmon declines. But federal agencies insist on spending almost $1 billion a year on these failed measures instead of taking the one action scientists tell us would be the surest and best way to recover Snake River salmon — removing 4 dams on the lower Snake River. I mean, what’s a few additional billion?

#9  Go fly a kite.

Federal agency staff have tried to drive predatory terns away from dam tailraces with radio-controlled airplanes, kites and balloons because the terns feast on disoriented baby salmon that are forced to swim through the huge dams. Of course, the same agencies also created many of the islands near the dams that the birds now nest on by piling up river dredge spoils. Which scenario is more amazing?  Federal employees flying toy airplanes to “save” salmon or birds smart enough to recognize free food and a free house courtesy of the federal government.

For the birds.

Also this.

#8  Call people names instead of making changes.

Federal agency spokesmen have coined the term “outliers” when referring to folks asking that lower Snake River dam removal be an option as part of the salmon restoration solution. As it turns out, these wild-eyed, dangerous outliers include: More than 70 members of Congress, 3 former Northwest governors, hundreds of local and national businesses, thousands of scientists from around the country, the State of Oregon, the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho and thousands of commercial and sports fishermen across the Pacific Rim. Watch out, these guys are CRAZY!

#7  Take a tip from Archimedes.

The federal government can prove anything with enough assumptions. Archimedes famously said that if he had a fulcrum and assumed a long enough lever, he could move the earth. Federal scientists say that with enough unfounded assumptions, they too can prove anything. First, “Let’s assume that we’ve already seen the worst of climate change.” Read more.

Then while we’re at it, “Let’s assume salmon prefer to be transported in barges and trucks instead of swimming in a river.” Read more.

But hey, they’re just assumptions. Of course, the effect of all those assumptions is it’s no assumption at all that fishing jobs and communities will disappear along with the salmon.

#6  Declare that some endangered salmon are just dumber than others.

The federal government has claimed that some salmon can find safer places in the ocean on their migrations than others and so return in higher numbers.  Of course it also turns out that the “stupid” salmon are also the ones that have to migrate the furthest and get past eight federal dams twice in their lifetime – Snake River salmon.  But yeah, it’s definitely their inability to find a friendly place in the ocean, not the dams, that’s causing their slide towards extinction.  Funny that they didn’t have a problem finding the right places in the ocean before the dams were built. The dams couldn’t be the problem, could they???

Blame it on the ocean?

Not so, says the Fish Passage Center.

#5  Let the foxes guard the hen house (and maybe we’ll get rid of the hens!).

Letting a federal power agency that makes billions from dam-generated power have the biggest voice in deciding how to operate those dams to save salmon makes tons of sense! Sure, they’re not biased, or anything… More on the BPA Team. Also check out the BPA Team’s thrilling helicopter missions HERE!

#4 Do the salmon limbo! The recovery bar: how low can you go?

One more fish, and then one more… and then… Recovery!  Like magic!  According to the federal government, for for dam operations to comply with the Endangered Species Act,, we only have to see one more fish coming back each year. The fact that it will take 3,400 years — or could it be 34,000 — to recover salmon at that rate is just a mathematical problem. But what’s a few zeros amongst friends?

The magic revealed.

#3  Assume that climate is no longer changing for salmon (Al Gore, you can go home now).

Federal agencies to salmon: “Don’t worry, you’ve already seen the worst of global warming in the Northwest!”.  Seriously, the federal government assumes that the future effects of climate change will be no worse than what we’ve already seen over the last 20 years. Al, don't let the door hit you - or the broad international science community - on the way out.

#2  Repeat after me: “Salmon do not need water; Salmon do not need water; Salmon do not need water.”

This just in: spilling water over the dams to make the river run more like a river is actually bad for salmon. They like being forced through pipes or turbines, swimming circles in trucks and barges and hanging out in hot, predator-filled reservoirs behind dams. Federal agencies have consistently argued that spilling the amount of water ordered by the Court actually hurts salmon.  Maybe they should tell that to the baby salmon that have survived at much higher rates with the court ordered spill than without it.

Here's where they rollback measures that we see working this year.

Also, a memo from the Fish Passage Center.

#1  Declare — in so many words — that steelhead are aquatic sissies!

Come on dude, steelhead actually prefer to be sucked out of the river, pumped into barges and hauled downstream rather than migrating naturally in the river. It’s so much easier; no exercise, plenty of friends to hang with — not enough pizza and no TV but hey, it sure beats what they used to do — actually swimming in a real river. It’s amazing these wimps even survived before the dams were built. Check it.

Seriously folks, these actions and statements may seem outrageous, but this is what your federal government is currently doing and saying about salmon, which should worry all of us.  Salmon mean business, and it’s about time our government got serious about recovery.  The Obama administration has an opportunity to fix this ridiculousness.  Let’s hope it stops listening to politics and bureacrats and starts following the science.

What would a legal and scientifically sound plan for salmon protection look like?






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