Questions raised about enviro's push to limit people's activities around the Columbia River

From: Ken Schlichte []
Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2005 1:51 PM
To: Doug Sutherland;;; Pat McElroy;; Bill Pickell; Bob Dick AFRC; James L. Buchal; Joel Kretz; Gary Wiggins

Subject: The Seattle Times - A commitment to ensure survival of Columbia Basin salmon (see article below)

This Seattle Times op-ed piece presents a discussion of salmon management efforts in the Columbia Basin. A key statement in this discussion, the subject of my January Springboard article, is,

"The past four years have witnessed the largest adult salmon returns to the Columbia River in over half a century."


Questions raised

from Gary Wiggins

RE: The Seattle Times - A commitment to ensure survival of Columbia Basin salmon


Thank you for sharing this article (below)! I certainly don’t know 15% as much as James Buchal about salmon in the Columbia River, and I know I am getting my salmon runs mixed up these days, but I swear I heard recently that once we mixed the hatchery salmon in there with the “wild” ones, there wasn’t to be “threatened” or “endangered” salmon runs to worry about. I have some real questions about the article for you:

1. Since when did the Columbia River salmon become a “treasured symbol of our quality of life in the NW”? I lived there 42 years and never noted this other than during recent PC talk from the Democrats in the paper since about 1996.

2. Now that the record #s are coming back mainly due to cooler ocean temperatures, why are these men so intense on ensuring the survival of a non-threatened/endangered fish?

3. Aren’t there better things they can do with our tax money than send letters to the Seattle Times (maybe they like the attention like my 14 year old)?

Flow Augmentation (dumping water through the dam to flush little ones through)? I thought we had proved from past experience that this method was pointless and wastes millions of dollars?

5. How can any “biological opinion” realistically address any economic issue?

6. Given that these men have now told us, in this article, that they are going “ensure the survival” of the endlessly plentiful Columbia Basin salmon, how can they be trusted to help develop a “comprehensive recovery plan covering all human activities on the river, not just dam operations”? In other words, do we want men that can’t count fish in the river working on plans to shut down more property rights and land use in and around the river? Maybe we should all ask “if men can’t count fish, do we really want them meddling with our expensive dams or anything for that matter”? Can anyone say, “Duh”?

Why do they want the NW Power Council to do anything here? The group has proven to be in bed with the environmentalist agenda and against any economic opportunities for years! Just read the “Columbia Basin Bulletin” they email out, just once!

Please answer my questions for me Ken! J

Seriously now, after reading this article, and thinking about it, I sort of felt sorry for these fellows having all this public “care and concern” for a critter they know is just fine. I think these guys are all feeling bad about the rate payers and tax payers wasting $600M annually on salmon bypass programs and are still trying to talk themselves into believing that it is important to spend the money.

Here is the truth: They KNOW it is a waste of money, time and energy just like all of us do!

Here is my last question: Then why are we spending a dime on this lunacy?

Your Friend,

Gary Wiggins

About the Endangered Species Act and the River

from Russ Brooks" <>
Pacific Legal Foundation

Ah, yes. And we of course have the litigation challenging the Columbia River BiOp and operation of the dams. Evidence shows that the extensive modifications the environmental plaintiffs desire would cost $87 million dollars (not to mention wreck the NW economy) . . . and save 27 fish. Yet the harvest was just increased by 49%. Does it just make too much sense to instead maybe reduce the harvest by 27 fish? Or could it be the plaintiffs' real point is to get rid of the dams?

I gave a speech on a panel in Portland not long ago. The topic was, "should we care about salmon?" One of my fellow panelists was a tribal fisheries biologist. To my great amazement he opened in response to the question with refreshing honesty -- "I frankly don't care if I ever see another salmon, I'm sick of studying them everyday. But, what I do care about is clean water and functioning habitat." Well, well. Finally. I couldn't jump on it quick enough -- the response is obvious. Congress gave us the "Clean Water Act" and the "Clean Air Act." If folks want a "Pristine Habitat Act," they're gonna have to ask Congress to write it up, because Congress did not intend for the ESA to be a land use control act -- it's an "Endangered Species Act" meant to protect only those species truly threatened with extinction.

Nonetheless, marbled murrelets and spotted owls were used to stop logging. Salmon and bull trout are used to stop farming, ranching, irrigation. Where there are no owls or salmon, folks deal with fairy shrimp and cave bugs.

Now that environmental policy is set in the White House instead of a tree house, we have a whole new round of litigation challenging decisions the agencies are now actually beginning to get right. Meanwhile, the only "species" actually thriving under the ESA are environmental groups.


A commitment to ensure survival of Columbia Basin salmon

Opinion By Bob Lohn, Steve Wright, William Grisoli and Bill McDonald
Special to The Seattle Times, Guest Columnists

Thursday, February 03, 2005, 12:00 a.m. Pacific

The Columbia River salmon is a treasured symbol of our quality of life here in the Pacific Northwest. Yet, today, 12 runs of salmon in the Columbia and Snake River basins are listed as threatened or endangered by human activity. So it's no surprise that the recently revised program to address the effects of dam operations on salmon should come under intense scrutiny.

We are the officials responsible for managing the federal Columbia River dams for the benefit of everyone in the region. We are committed to taking steps that ensure no salmon species goes extinct as a result of the operation of these dams. We are also determined to act as a positive force for salmon recovery throughout the Columbia Basin. We believe our actions support these words.

Our commitment extends to all the congressionally mandated purposes of the federal hydro projects. The dams provide flood control worth billions of dollars, produce 40 percent of the region's electric power, irrigate over 1 million acres of land and make navigation possible. Our responsibility is clear: to assure that salmon programs are carried out as efficiently as possible along with these purposes. Northwest ratepayers and U.S. taxpayers cover the costs and expect nothing less.

The Endangered Species Act requires that operating the dams not put salmon in jeopardy of extinction. A federal district court judge has ruled that some of the actions in the program we adopted in 2000 to help fish were not "reasonably certain to occur." We have now officially revised the program, remedying that problem. The program clearly identifies specific beneficial actions for each species and includes the tools to measure results.

Compared with the 2000 version, the updated program will improve salmon survival in the basin. It encompasses all the substantive measures in both the 2000 and 1995 programs. These actions are working. The past four years have witnessed the largest adult salmon returns to the Columbia River in over half a century. Good ocean conditions contributed substantially, but similar conditions occurred in the past 60 years without such positive results.

The updated program builds on the existing effort. It includes added fish spill in April, protection and restoration of spawning and rearing habitat, control of salmon predators and improvement of hatchery programs. Especially notable is our objective to install new fish-passage facilities at all eight of the main stem Columbia River and Snake River dams within 10 years. These devices should improve salmon survival while reducing costs for electric ratepayers. We stress that all of these measures go beyond what was contemplated in the 2000 program.

While preserving the existing assets, the program includes flow augmentation and spill to assist fish, as well as structural improvements at dams. In the Endangered Species Act, Congress clearly intended to focus on the effects of future federal actions — actions proposed after a species is listed. The act does not require or authorize the removal of federal dams built before it was passed. But it does require us to make sure those dams are operated in a way that protects the listed fish. Our response to the court meets all the requirements of the law.

The reality is that removing the four lower Snake River dams would impose economic hardship and would not help salmon throughout the Columbia River Basin. Only four of the 12 listed stocks spawn in the Snake and its tributaries, so breaching these dams would do nothing for the other species. The updated biological opinion addresses all of the threatened and endangered salmon in ways that make both biological and economic sense.

The next step is to develop a comprehensive recovery plan covering all human activities on the river affecting fish, not just the operation of dams. This effort is off to a good start, addressing land use, water quality, hatchery operations, harvest management and more. Ratepayers and federal taxpayers will invest about $600 million a year — $6 billion over the coming decade — in the endeavor.

Under the auspices of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a remarkable collaboration of local citizens, landowners, tribes and state and federal agencies has produced draft fish and wildlife plans for 59 Columbia River sub-basins. Now the multitude of federal, state and local programs aimed at salmon restoration need to be coordinated and focused so that we get the best biological results for our efforts.

A truly comprehensive recovery plan will require unprecedented cooperation among all of stakeholders in the region — governmental entities, tribes, environmental groups and others. The federal agencies are firmly committed to this objective, and are willing to sit down with stakeholders to discuss how we enhance salmon while energizing the Northwest economy.

Bob Lohn is regional director of NOAA Fisheries; Steve Wright is administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration; Brig. Gen. William Grisoli is commander of the Northwestern Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Bill McDonald is regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.


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