Idaho's Redfish Lake

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Steve Buckner, Nov 22, 2007.

  1. Citori

    Citori Piscatorial Engineer

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    Sharpshooter,

    There have been earlier posts on this site about the time those Snake R. dam turbines actually turn, and it isn't much. So while the potential exists that they COULD generate significant amounts of power, the fact is that they have not, and likely will never...seems when the Snake R. water is available to turn the turbines, there is plenty of power in the grid, so that contribution is not needed.

    The truth is that the reasons for the dams never existed - they are run of the river dams, so they do not provide flood protection, they do not impound irrigation water, and their power is not needed. Everyone knows they should go...but the political issues prevent that decision.

    Please take a moment to read this Editorial from the Idaho Statesman

    Posted July 23, 2007:
    From Sunday, July 23, 2007 Idaho Daily Statesman

    Our View: The case for breaching is stronger than ever - Idaho Statesman
    Edition Date: 07/22/07

    On July 20, 1997, the Idaho Statesman published its first editorial supporting the removal of four lower Snake River dams — a bold step that will best preserve Idaho's salmon, and best protect Idaho's water users. Ten years later, the dams remain in place. Idaho chinook salmon returns lag 34 percent behind their 1997 pace. Amidst a continuing drought, Idaho water users battle for a share of a finite source. What happened?

    And what happens next?

    1997

    "Four dams in Washington are holding Idaho's economy hostage. The dams on the Lower Snake River once provided cheap power and hope for economic prosperity for Lewiston. But now these dams are a burden on Idaho and the Northwest.

    "The region won't be set free until the salmon and steelhead these dams kill are recovered and balance is restored to our economy, environment and culture.

    "This can't be done unless the four Lower Snake River dams — Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite — are breached."

    Those words are as true as they were in July 1997. The argument for breaching, if anything, is stronger.

    Idaho's salmon are a decade closer to extinction. Our economy remains hostage to outmoded out-of-state dams — and to the political gridlock that protects them, at the expense of the salmon.

    1998

    The Idaho Fish and Game Commission — a panel answering to Republican Gov. Phil Batt, and headed by Fred Wood, now a GOP state legislator from Burley — said returning the lower Snake River to its natural state offers the best solution for saving salmon and steelhead.

    The commission stopped short of endorsing breaching, but came refreshingly close. Said Keith Carlson, a commissioner from Lewiston: ‘‘We're loud and clear — the dams are the problem.''

    The dams still are the problem. And there's a related problem: a speak-no-evil syndrome. Political leaders in Idaho, the state that would most benefit from breaching, refuse to acknowledge the damage inflicted by the dams.

    1999

    Fifty-eight miles upriver from the Atlantic Ocean, more than 2,000 miles from Idaho salmon country, the federal government made history. For the first time, the feds removed a dam for environmental purposes, against the will of its owner.

    Since the removal of the Edwards Dam, the Kennebec River has rebounded. Fish numbers are up. Water quality has improved. The words of then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt proved prophetic. "What we are doing today is an act of creation. This is the beginning of something that is going to happen across the nation."

    Indeed, more than 200 dams have gone down since then, according to the conservation group American Rivers. Other removal efforts are in the works. Yet the lower Snake dams remain in place, blocking Idaho's river ecosystem from returning to its full potential.

    2000

    In its final days in office, this same Clinton administration took no action on breaching the lower Snake dams. Instead, their salmon recovery plan established a series of three-, five- and eight-year milestones for the Bush administration. All this while acknowledging dam operations threaten salmon.

    U.S. District Judge James Redden rejected the Clinton plan.

    By punting to a Bush administration that would prove openly hostile to breaching, the Clinton White House squandered its last chance to advance salmon recovery in Idaho. And in 2009, the next administration, Republican or Democrat, is likely to assume control over Idaho salmon runs that remain in peril — after nearly two decades on the feds' endangered species list.

    2001

    For one brief moment, Idaho salmon enjoyed a renaissance. The counts at the Lower Granite Dam near Lewiston — the last dam standing between Snake River salmon and their Idaho spawning grounds — had never been higher. Rural Idaho communities such as Stanley and Riggins reeled in nearly a $90 million haul from the salmon fishing season.

    This has proven to be only a tease, for Idaho anglers and communities alike. Idahoans cannot plan on a salmon fishing season; opportunities come only when fish return in "surplus" numbers that exceed what's needed to sustain hatchery operations. Idaho communities cannot hope for the economic bounty that could come from annual fishing — some $544 million a year, according to a February 2005 study by Boise economist Don Reading.

    However, anglers and entrepreneurs won't pour this kind of money in small-town Idaho until, or unless, salmon return consistently. And Idaho salmon runs haven't come close to duplicating 2001.

    2002

    The study's findings seemed novel at the time: Global warming could cut into the West's snowpack, drying up the region's water supply just as growth increases the demand. The region could face an unsavory choice: Use water for hydroelectric production or use it to help spring and summer salmon run.

    Now, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography report seems prescient. The effects of climate change, such as reduced snowpack, are accepted enough that even Idaho Gov. Butch Otter admits to the possibility. The specter of global warming has even turned fisheries biologist Don Chapman into a breaching advocate; Chapman had spent a professional career arguing for dams, and against breaching, as a respected consultant for the hydro industry.

    Breaching doesn't just help Idaho salmon; it helps Idaho water users. As long as young salmon continue fighting around dams, with limited success, Idaho will face continued pressure to release more water to flush the fish around the dams. In a time of global warming, drought and growth, Idaho needs to assume greater control over its precious water.

    2003

    The Northwest's four governors — including then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne — issued a series of salmon recommendations that accurately describe the region's politics. "The challenge for the Columbia Basin is to overcome the propensity for paralysis."

    Five pages later, the governors weaken their call to action by rejecting — flatly — the quickest path to salmon preservation. "Breaching the four lower Snake River dams must not be an option."

    Crafting a salmon solution will be inherently complicated, involving four states, Northwest tribes and an acronym amalgam of federal agencies. But when the region's leaders gather at the table, Idaho leaders need to remember one point: the lower Snake dams impact Idaho's fish. When they join neighboring states in opposition to breaching, they literally sell our fish down the river.

    2004

    Rather than talking about breaching, the feds instead tried to lower the bar for salmon recovery. They pushed a plan to allow them to count wild salmon and hatchery fish interchangeably in measuring salmon recovery.

    Even the feds acknowledged that some research points to "behavioral differences that result in diminished fitness and survival of hatchery fish relative to naturally spawned populations." Let's be clear. This wasn't about the science, and was all about the numbers. Weaker hatchery-raised fish are more abundant, comprising 80 percent of salmon runs, so their numbers do inflate salmon counts.

    Last month, a federal judge rejected the feds' numbers game, providing a lesson to the Northwest. It's not about numbers; it's about saving the wild fish that will save the species.

    2005

    It was bad enough for President Bush to stand at Ice Harbor Dam — as he did in August 2003 — and assert that his administration had taken significant steps to help salmon. It was preposterous for his administration to go to court and smugly suggest that these same man-made dams are simply part of the natural river system that salmon must navigate.

    Enter Redden, with a ruling that finally reopened the breaching debate.

    In a May 2005 ruling, the judge rejected the bogus premise of dams as a natural component of the river. He also offered an honest appraisal of the state of salmon, 4 1/2 years into Bush's tenure. "It is apparent that the listed species are in serious decline and not evidencing signs of recovery."

    2006

    The dams' backers talk about what would be lost to breaching: a source of about 5 percent of the region's electricity, a slackwater river linking the Port of Lewiston to the Pacific. What if we pay for these tangible but replaceable amenities with both our salmon and our tax dollars?

    An unusual alliance of fish advocates and budget hawks advanced this argument last fall. In their study, titled "Revenue Stream," they argue that breaching would reduce the cost of salmon recovery efforts, saving taxpayers and Northwest ratepayers $2 billion to $5 billion over 20 years.

    This wasn't the first study to suggest the dams simply don't pencil out. It's another reminder that dam breaching is a national issue.

    In an era of federal deficits, how much use will Congress have for dams that indiscriminately chew up fish and swallow up tax dollars?

    2007

    At least 65 members of Congress want to have a sober discussion, based in facts, about the future of the dams.

    They have co-sponsored a bill to assign the General Accounting Office, the auditing arm of Congress, to study the pros and cons of breaching. They want to know how breaching would affect jobs, irrigation, transportation and energy.

    It's a start — years later than we would have hoped. But breaching, when it occurs, will bring tumultuous transition to the Northwest's economy. Change, however justified, is never easy. We believe a GAO study will not only make the case for breaching, but suggest the parameters for building a region without the four dams.

    2017

    Salmon embody endurance. Idaho's sockeye climb 6,500 feet and swim 900 miles to reach Redfish Lake — as their ancestors have for 10,000 years. But no sockeye have returned yet this year and only 349 have reached the Stanley Basin since 1997 — less than three dozen fish a year. A species that has survived for millennia is fast running out of decades.

    What will we be able to say about ourselves 10 years from now? Did we stand up to protect fish that are a symbol of everything that is best and most wild about Idaho? Or did we stand up for a symbol of a bygone dam-building age?

    We stand where we stood a decade ago and repeat what we said on July 20, 1997: "Breaching the four dams is not a step backward. It is a step forward."

    It is also, more than ever, a necessary step.

    "Our View" is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman's editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, e-mail editorial@idahostatesman.com.
    __________________
     
  2. BFK

    BFK Member

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    An interesting read filched from another site:

    News from the Front #90:
    What If Columbia and Snake River Dams Were Helping Salmon?
    Of course no one believes that pushing salmon smolts through a turbine is helping them. But as billions of dollars generated by the dams are invested in structural improvements, fish production, habitat improvements, and control of natural predators, the possibility emerges that all these efforts have generated a river system that, on balance, is more survivable for fish than a natural river system.

    Last week, Northwest Fishletter obtained an internal memorandum from the National Marine Fisheries Service summarizing recent studies addressing that question. The memorandum presents estimates of smolt survival in the Columbia and Snake Rivers as compared with the unregulated, unimpounded Fraser River in British Columbia, and the regulated but unimpounded Sacramento River in California.

    · Juvenile survival through the Columbia and Snake Rivers was recently measured at 56% for chinook and 39.2% for steelhead.

    · Juvenile survival through the Fraser River was recently measured at 24% for chinook and 30% for steelhead.

    · Juvenile survival through the Sacramento River was recently measured at 2% for chinook and 5% for steelhead.

    So on first appearances, survival down the Columbia and Snake Rivers is higher than in other, roughly comparable rivers without any dams that smolts must pass. This is not really a surprising result for those who follow science rather than public opinion. A leading treatise, Pacific Salmon Life Histories, reported several years ago that roughly 70% of fish die while migrating downstream in all rivers. One interesting feature in this data is that steelhead survival is higher up and down the West Coast except on the Columbia, which may be related to ongoing efforts to spill water at dams; earlier this year excessive spill was poisoning up to 66% of late-migrating juvenile steelhead. Steelhead, being a game fish by statute, seems to get short shrift in a system that seems to be run by commercial harvest interests.

    One can certainly quibble with the details. The measurements for the other rivers are taken further downstream. Predator densities are highest below Bonneville Dam, so the Columbia and Snake River numbers above need a downward adjustment—perhaps 10% more mortality, perhaps more. The Sacramento River measurements were in a particularly warm, dry year. One might question effects on adults, though radio-tagging studies suggest that adults move upstream through dams and reservoirs faster than in a natural river.

    A more exact analysis could easily show adverse effects from the dams, as compared to a more natural, dam-free river, but those effects would be small, and probably not enough to make much difference at all to adult returns. Here is a recent graph of the relationship between downstream steelhead survival and adult returns:


    Juvenile survival through the Columbia and Snake Rivers explains only one percent of the variance in adult returns; the number is higher for chinook.

    The NMFS memo is careful to say that the data from other rivers are “preliminary” and “it is not appropriate to imply their meaning regarding policy issues at this time”. But one wonders when it will be time for Northwesterners to wake up and realize that the massive and continuing campaign against the dams is based on very significant misrepresentations. Powerful interests (investor-owned utilities) have earned hundreds of millions of dollars annually from reducing power production at the publicly-owned dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. They get to sell the power instead from their own plants. Powerful harvest interests, such as Northwest Tribes and commercial fishing interests from Oregon to Alaska, all distract the public from the largest sources of human-induced mortality: continuing overfishing. Almost no one is left to speak in defense of the dams, as even the organizations ostensibly founded to protect them have lined up in support of the latest draft biological opinion pushing the same old misrepresentations.

    Pretending that the dams are killing most of the fish (rather than Mother Nature) saddles us all with billions in increased electric rates, and funnels millions of tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. Even if fish advocates don’t care about that, they ought to be wondering whether all this focus on dams distracts sportsfishing interests from what is really needed: sensible harvest and hatchery management. Why on earth do we take money from every taxpayer to release hatchery fish that aren’t fin-clipped, so only the Tribes can keep them? Why does a small Northwest minority with rights to “fish in common with all citizens” get to take the vast majority of salmon and steelhead out of the river? Why do sportsfishing interests get thrown off the river with paltry allocations while gillnets continue to decimate salmon and steelhead runs? In large part, it is because sportsfishing interests are distracted with constant fraudulent attacks on dams and landowners that have no reasonable prospect of putting more fish in the river to catch.

    © James Buchal, November 7, 2007

    You have permission to reprint this article, and are encouraged to do so. The sooner people figure out what's going on, the quicker we'll have more fish in the rivers.
    Return to Other Salmon Materials
    Return to www.buchal.com
     
  3. gt

    gt Active Member

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    nice right wingnut source you quote from. check out this guys briefs and their appropriately brief descriptions.
     
  4. BFK

    BFK Member

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    So basically, gt, you have nothing to say or refute what Buchal says...typical of most of your arguments. Are you still looking for your "Florida-sized iceberg"?
     
  5. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    BFK,

    The data you're citing is misconstrued to meet a political end. Just like those 'science' reports which recently concluded that removal of Snake River dams would not reduce spring chinooks likelihood of extinction. The fact is however, that dams are unnatural sources of mortality and have lengthened the duration of juvenile outmigrations in the columbia river as much as four fold. Some years the impacts of dams are more severe than others. Dams may not be the ONLY problem, but they are certainly the most substantial and I dont understand why folks are so opposed to removing dams such as those on the lower Snake. The benefits to Salmon and Steelhead are undeniable, and the lost electrical power and shipping could easily be compensated for. Anyone who says the dams on the columbia river aren't contributing to the extirpation of salmon from the watershed is 100% full of it, and you are too if you think folks with any sense are going to buy that drivel.

    Cheers,
    Will
     
  6. greyghost

    greyghost Member

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    Anyone who thinks that the Columbia/Snake River dams are helping native salmon runs are either a) insane, or b) have a vested interest in the survival of said dams. Mr. Buchal is a well educated, successful attorney..... can anyone guess what the correct answer is?
     
  7. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    BFK,

    Mr. Buchal is on the take. He's no friend of the salmon and steelhead. He's no friend of rivers. He's no friend of the natural world. He and his ilk are the problem. Taking the time to list the citations to refute Buchal is time wasted. He's about the highest on the list of those not worth the effort. However he can be sort of entertaining in a Cheech and Chong sort of way.

    Sg
     
  8. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

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    What the numbers say is that for hundreds of millions of dollars a year you can take a decimated river filled with dams and get basically the same survival as a river with no obstructions. How much money is spent on barging, facility wiers and special diversion facilites on the Fraser? That would be about $0.

    Ironically, I think there is a strong suggestion from these percentages that the Snake would probably experience a significant increase in smolt survival (and thus adult returns) if the dams were removed. Again this is because the "comparable survival" is only being achieved with highly invasive management practices.
     
  9. Jergens

    Jergens AKA Joe Willauer

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    iagree

    i wonder if we will ever see the snake dams come out, sure would be cool!
     
  10. Steve Buckner

    Steve Buckner Mother Nature's Son

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    Another item for consideration (because the article mentions a comparison between the Fraser and the Columbia) is to simply compare the number of returning fish to each system today. The Fraser dwarfs the Columbia by a long shot. Somehow that point wasn't mentioned...

    Geographically those two systems aren't too far apart so I think it would be tough to look at the oceanic survival rate as the culprit. Also, both systems are impacted by netting, yet that hasn't had the same effect on the Fraser as it has on the Columbia. That said, I do want to make clear that I'm not underestimating the decimating power of netting however! Although cleary habitat in the upper stretches has degraded, it's probably good enough to support fish in both the upper Columbia/Snake river systems. The major difference is clearly the dams. Here in Washington, look what's happened to runs of wild fish on the Cowlitz, Elwha, Skagit, Deschutes, (rivers that all have dams).

    In fact, to take it a step further, compare any rivers that are not dammed to those that are and you'll find a significant difference. Sure their are some exceptions, but it's a generally true statement. At this point in time, we have more than enough data from analyzing river systems both here and in Europe to understand that the major obstacle for native anadromous fish are the dams (and people).

    The common theme to the loss of our wild places and the species that once lived their are humans. We over-harvested the rivers, built the dams, built the hatcheries, and use up the resources. Our footprint on the land is increasingly visible on so many levels, this just being another example. The question before us now is if we're willing to change our lifestyles, and if not, accept the consequences. As an angler and one who enjoys the last wild places, I'm hoping for the former.
     
  11. BFK

    BFK Member

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    Steve-- Thanks for the reply. I do have a question-- you lost me on the Columbia/Fraser in regards to ocean survival not playing a part. Could you explain a bit further as I don't understand the logic there (this is not an attack; I really don't understand your reasoning.)

    Second, in comparing dammed versus non-dammed rivers: there are a number of streams without dams, without hatcheries (and their weirs as on the Quilcene) where the headwaters are pristine that have seriously depleted runs of fish. To name three: the Hamma Hamma, Duckabush and Dosewallips. There are other problem streams without dams: the Dungeness (some hatchery/irrigation issues there), and even streams like the Quillayute system where runs are significantly down. When you have streams with few habitat problems and no dams AND no fish, then there is something at work somewhere (most likely in the ocean) because it definitely ain't dams.

    BFK
     
  12. inland

    inland Active Member

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    BFK-

    Please read 'A River Lost' and 'Salmon Without Rivers'. I will loan you my copies if need be. They represent the truth and solution to the abysmal situation that we currently face.

    William
     
  13. gt

    gt Active Member

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    take a drive out to lyendecker park and learn about the 'problems' on the quillayute system. looks like bank to bank net sets to me. the dungness also has a 'vibrant' indian net fishery which greatly reduces the hatchery escapement. just a bit of local flavor observation for 'yah to ponder.
     
  14. Steve Buckner

    Steve Buckner Mother Nature's Son

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    My point is that once the outgoing smolt reach the pacific, they're basically subject to the same oceanic conditions regardless of their river of origin. I'm sure their are some statistical variances, I'm just not sure to what degree. One thing is certain however, and that is that the Fraser is freeflowing and it's salmon/steelhead populations are far greater than the Columbia which was once the greatest salmon/steelhead river of them all.

    Canadian and US commercial fisherman are in constant quibble about this same topic, because they're basically fishing for the same fish, claiming that the fish in their nets are from their country of origin. I suppose a geneticist would be able to validate each of their claims but the problem is that salmon basically pass through, live, and feed in the same water because they largely follow the same path, ie, out to the pacific, then up the inside passage to feed in the rich waters off of Alaska/Brittish Columbia coast, and then back home to where they came from after they've reached adulthood.

    If the above is correct, then I'm suggesting that it makes little difference if the fish are from the Columbia or the Fraser, because once they've made it to the ocean their survival (smolt to adult) rate would be roughly equal.

    As you point out, and as I also agree, there are some rivers like the ones you mention that are basically sterile to date. And I'd put money on it that somewhere back in history, humans were involved with that. Rivers do reach a point of no return. We're seeing that now as well.

    Lastly, most agree that it isn't that dams are solely to blame for the loss of our wild fish, but they are the largest obstacle for them. The lower Fraser has many tributaries, (freeflowing) that allow for many more returning adults/outgoing smolt than the Columbia. The lower/mid/upper Columbia tribs are mostly dammed. And by comparing the numbers of returning fish in each system, it's clear that the Fraser is in far better shape than the Columbia.
     
  15. BDD

    BDD Active Member

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    Steve Buckner,

    I have read that there can be a big difference in ocean feeding conditions as they are not all the same throughout the system. When you stop and consider the long migrations that some fish make, it makes sense that they would encounter different ocean conditions. Wish I could remember the exact reference for you. I do recall a Clearwater, Idaho fish being recovered near Japan; several thousand miles away as the crow flies. When considering that the fish probably didn't take a direct route, makes you wonder how many miles that particular fish swam? Pretty amazing.