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Salmon Salvation In the Pacific Northwest

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Salmon salvation In the Pacific Northwest
(Washington, Oregon and Idaho)

For some time now, people have been campaigning,
for the protection of the salmon on the Columbia and Snake rivers. And recently, they had a victory when the court stopped the Bushes administration salmon plan.

Text is quoted out of a letter from The Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition:
” The court ruling invalidating the Bush Adminstration’s $6
billion Federal Salmon Plan was a great victory for salmon, and
has created a stir throughout the Pacific Northwest – – not all of
it good…

Soon after the ruling, the Governors of Washington, Oregon, and
Idaho began to hold closed-door meetings with the Bush
Administration in an apparent effort to craft some type of
“compromise”. Given the Administration’s dismal record on salmon
recovery, salmon and fishing advocates are convinced that any
so-called “deals” that are reached in secret meetings with the
Bush Administration will only further harm wild salmon and
steelhead – and the businesses and communities that rely upon

In order to protect and restore our wild salmon and steelhead,
they need real protections today.

Now the governors of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are holding talks behind closed doors with the Bush government. Should one be worried about this? Well that of course depends what they are talking about. I suspect that in due time, they will become open about it, and say what they might have to say.

However if this is good news for the salmon, I can not tell from where I am,
and as such I do support those in the Pacific Northwest who feel they should act,
in the importance of the salmon, and there ecological, economical and cultural heritage.

Saving the Salmon not only has ecological value, but also economic and cultural value. Let me be a bit more clear, not so long ago, there was this article about the Salmon being late, and people being worried that there were so few already mounting up from the sea. I have not followed it up, but would say that having read nothing new about it, or nothing worryingly that probably solved itself,

when the water got clearer allowing the salmon to swim upstream. As someone said there were probably large groups of salmon waiting just off stream.

Now some may wonder about the 3 parts mentioned here: ecological, economical and cultural.

1. Ecological importance

And for that lets have a look at other great water basins(1) around the world and what can be learned from them. Dams are built for multiple reasons. To help forming water reservoirs so that that water could be used for irrigation, drinking water, could be used to generate power. These are benefits, and often these are the only things that are closely looked at. If ones looks at examples like for example the Colorado River basin, the Nile, The Tigris and Euphrates, The Yangtze and/or Yellow river, then one can also see that next to benefits, positive points, lets say, there are also negative points. Numerous dams around the world, not only allow to gather water and form a freshwater reserve, but also keep fertile ground locked up, create the need for people to move out of places they have lived in as long as they can remember, and stop fish from migrating, or making it very difficult for them.

In basins like the Colorado, the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates, dams and a water usage have led, to a significant reduction of the flow of water reaching the sea. This endangers the plants and animals that depend on the direct and/or indirect effects of that flow of water. It also means that the peoples whose lives depend on those animals or who can generate part of there living from selling them (for example fish) are also endangered. People in the Iraqi marshes and the fishers in the Nile estuary are directly affected by the dams built upstream. The first are affected because there is less water flowing the marshes, and as such the marshes, there living area, has become smaller, and this of course affects there ability to survive and the ability of the species of fish and birds living there as well. Recent changes in politics and ecological viewpoint , have allowed for water to flood some of the marshes again. A first step in a long way, but a first step nonetheless, and it wouldn’t have been possible whit outh those recent political changes(2).

In the Nile basin, the picture is different. Dams like the one at Aswan provide much needed electricity, as well as water for irigation and as well as drinking water. It also meant many monuments had to move and some may have been flooded. An indirect consequence of that dam is that fertile grounds, the richness of the Nile, are halted there. Meaning that people may have to buy fertilizer where this was not needed before. It also means, which research has shown, that the fish population in the Nile estuary and in the space of sea in front of it, has diminished. This happened because the fertile ground is not only good for agriculture but also for the fish.

Of course there will be those who say that the Nile and the Euphrates/Tigris and even the Colorado basin, can be found largely in desert areas. This comment is complexity true. And one can further point out that the Columbia/Snake river basin is not. Also true. So why did I take those as an example. Because they are in such a different environment valuable lessons can be learned from them, and insight can be provided that one would never think off when only looking at one river basin.

I’m not an expert on river basin, and certainly not the Columbia/Snake river basin, but from looking at these other river basin, I do have some questions, that may shed light on aspects often not thought off. Dams not only allow to form water basins and as such holds water back, it also hold the fish who wants to migrate upstream,it may also hold some thing vital for the fish downstream. Most river systems in the world transport grounds, stones and the like. I would be rather surprised if the Columbia/snake river did not do the same. Is the influence of this known on the river and of the fish in the river and in the sea ? Are there any simulations, numbers, study s about it ?

Of course one can argue that there can be put measurements in place, allowing the salmon to migrate upstream. This is true, and in should in my view always be put in place at every dam. There impact, feasibility should always be taken into account when considering implementing the steps that can lead to the building of a dam.

What else ? Well it is know that water in water reservoir can be diminished by evaporation, and that stagnant water can lead to a breeding ground for diseases. Most such cases are in desert environments, and that is here not the case. Yet one may wonder if the partly stagnant water may not influence the health of the fish. I would personally say the chances are small.

The salmon are ecologically important, because they are a symbol and important part of the biotope in the Columbia and Snake river basin. If they would be left then future generations would only know from hearsay and picture, why the Salmon mountains are called the Salmon mountains, in the first place.

Other questions may arise, and perhaps have already been answered.

2. Economic importance

Economically spoken the dams provided electricity, and as such energy. The salmon provide food, and an income to many in the Columbia/Snake basin. If they would disappear this would influence many peoples life’s. The dams also have economic importance, in providing electricity and possibly drinking water to the population. Taking them away would mean having to find other alternatives. On of those alternatives, might be to collect water using rain catch devices. But I have no current information indicating that the area can do whit outh the dams.

The salmon provide an extra income every single year, and as such they are of primary economic importance. There survival and making sure they are plenty of them around, also make sure that people will have this extra income in the years to come.

The only long term solution that will last is a middle way. Allowing for existing dams to stay, but also implementing everything needed so the salmon can go as far upstream as they used to do, and to make sure they have as much success with that as possible. If existing and novel rain catch devices would be used then people can gather water from the rain, and use that for example in the garden or if purified for drinking water. There could be much more said about this, but I will leave that to the people of the Pacific Northwest as they are more aware of that, then I am.

3. Cultural importance

Why are the Salmon of cultural importance ? They are a symbol for a region, there are mountains named after them, and in the native Indian cultures they are also important. There will be many people who come in contact with the salmon, one way or another, who like to eat them, protect them, fish them, measure them study them. I wonder how many people are influenced one way or another because of the salmons being there or not being there.

The salmon has become a symbol of that particular region of the Pacific Northwest. A symbol that is a life, and returns every year. As it has in the past and will in the future. But only if its it being taken care of.

To be complete, one would have to read a previous letter to the Seattle times I send about that subject I think, several months ago.

To conclude:

When looking up a map of the Columbia and Snake river basin, I noticed a mountain range, called The Salmon Mountains. It would be very unfortunate if in the years the name would remain, but there would not be enough Salmon left, or none at all to explain the name. They are called the Salmon mountains, because most likely, when the people whom called them like that noticed that there were many salmon in the rivers, or something like that. This was true for past generations, it should be true for present and future generations as well.


(1) My information about the Colorado river basin comes from The world’s water: The biennial Report on Freshwater Resources 2002-2003,
so the information may not be up to date. There is of course a climatological difference between the Columbia and Snake river basin and the Colorado river basin, and others mentioned here. This difference should be taken into account, when making comparisons.

(2) Personally I disagree with the fact that Mr Bush invaded Iraq wiht outh permission of the UN, but I am also aware that the rest of the world watched and did nothing every time Mr Saddam Hussein did not really comply to the rules. More about this can be read in the post Iraq. Which can be found on mistwereld and blogcritics [lookup the recent post about perception philosophy, and then check all my posts].

The subject as a whole is so interesting that I have decided to post information about it to the american politics group of the mistwereld academy and results from that to the European thoughts group as well.

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About Florisv

  • Good post – fixed a few minor grammar and spelling issues.

    On the point of farmed salmon vs. wild salmon, opinions vary which is better (or safer), but any kind of water management has risks and benefits. Countries like India, China and Egypt have benefitted immensely from dams, water conservation and fisheries. Yet, every benefit has a downside – displaced people, environmental issues, etc.

    Like the Jedi, we too, must feel the Force when we act, to consider consequences of actions

  • It’s important to remove the four outdated dams on the lower Snake River so we can recover healthy, fishable salmon runs. Those four dams are draining our region’s resources.

    The real story here is how we can remove the dams and replace their benefits, protecting and enhancing local economies. The benefits of the dams can be replaced.

    Let’s use the can-do spirit and ingenuity we used 30 years ago to build the dams, to unbuild them today.

    You can read about the economics surrounding lower Snake dam removal at http://www.americanrivers.org/snakeriverecon

  • Maurice

    I have to agree with Amy. I don’t believe any of those dams are producing electicity at this time. One thing to note: enviornment will be devastated if dams are removed without careful planning. They should be removed but I hope it will be with thoughtful care.

  • Shark

    “…the governors of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are holding talks behind closed doors with the Bush government. Should one be worried about this?”

    Let’s see…

    the U.S.Government conspires to “manage” an important natural resource for the good of Native Americans?

    Hey, let’s ask the Bison!

    Oh, nevermind…


    The Unabomber was right.

  • Richard

    The lower 4 Snake River dams do produce electricity, but at the most, combined 10% of the NW grid. Their true purpose is to have the furthest inland port in the west, hauling grain and Potlach Corp. products from Lewiston. The Corps subsidises the ferry system so rich people get richer.

  • Thanks for correcting the mistakes. You are right, any kind of water managment has possitive and negative sides, and the quest is to find a balance, make a balanced decision, but it will hardley ever be good for everyone.

    Does anyone else benefits next to the corps of those dams being there ?

    You are corect in pointing out that removal of the dams should be well planned, and I will read the information you provide.

  • steve

    Salmon are vital to the Pacific Northwest’s ecosystems; they are a major source of nutrients for many animals, and also for some plants. When migrating salmon drift ashore or are eaten by animals, they cycle back into the land nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients that are continually washing out of the land and into the ocean. Salmon directly link ecosystems that are half a world apart, all the way from their inland spawning grounds to their ocean feeding grounds, which extend north of the Aleutian Islands and to the Asian side of the Pacific.