The federal plan to save wild salmon to me seems a complicated patchwork of one failure after another that has shown no progress toward the stated goal of recovering endangered stocks of wild salmon and steelhead.
We've all heard the saying that doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, but I would add that so is simply doing more and more of the same failed tactics over and over.
I laughed and was again dismayed when I read recently that the Corps of Engineers is embarking on a Caspian tern protection plan on East Sand Island.
The Corps has been part and parcel to the history of the Caspian terns of East Sand Island and you may already know this by reading the various Corps actions related to these birds that happen to like eating salmon and steelhead smolts in the estuary.
But to be somewhat thorough I should give you a brief synopsis of the timeline regarding the Corps and the Caspian terns of East Sand Island.
The Corps has to dredge the lower Columbia to keep the Port of Portland in the ocean shipping business. They have to dredge a whole lot more to keep the Port of Lewiston at least a sea port on paper, but I'll get to that later.
In the 1980s, the Corps dumped dredge material on East Sand Island augmenting it and making it attractive to some passing Caspian terns who landed, did what terns do and then due to vegetative encroachment they soon left East Sand Island and went to work colonizing Rice Island.
All of this was coinciding with the serious bottoming out of salmon runs in the Columbia/Snake. The Corps noted the terns were eating a lot of salmon and steelhead smolts from their new digs on Rice Island and the Corps decided to move the colony back to East Sand Island. Around the same time terns were moving back, cormorants of various types were also getting established on East Sand Island and so too came gulls and pelicans and bald eagles and other birds of prey.
All of these potential smolt eaters again had the attention of the Corps and they started planning to again move about half the tern colony elsewhere, such as southern Oregon and Northern California.
Meanwhile, through federal nudging Oregon got involved in getting volunteers to go boating in the estuary to harass cormorants and other birds that looked like they might be fishing.
While this is going on some rather amusing research was being conducted to apparently test if people harassed birds where they were nesting on East Sand Island if that would disrupt their all-they-can-eat smolt buffet. Of course, control groups had to be established, you know birds that wouldn't be harassed versus those that would be. It was very comical. As were the published results.
While all of that was going on, the Corps was playing bird calls to keep the terns from moving back to Rice Island.
Meanwhile, bald eagles and gulls struck an alliance where the eagles would swoop down and harass Caspian terns on their nests forcing the terns to leave their eggs unguarded for the gulls to enjoy a good scramble.
This latest development has the Corps worried about falling out of compliance with the Migratory Bird Act and thus they have hatched a plan to protect the Caspian terns on East Sand Island while still moving about half the colony elsewhere. It's really amusing unless you understand that you are paying for it.
The terns have gone from personae non grata to protected overnight.
This is the sort of thing that Rush Limbaugh lampoons during the NFL season, where he picks winners based on the team mascot's ability to hold the hearts and minds of the politically correct and (Rush's terminology) environmentalists whackos.
I noted that part of the questions the Corps now seeks answers to is whether bird hazing can run them afowl (oops) afoul of the bird bill. OK, that may have been one pun too many.
Also, note that NOAA has gotten Oregon and Washington on board for harassing, relocating and killing California sea lions above Bonneville. Also, note that an appeals court is hearing the Humane Society of the United States' appeal of its lawsuit pertaining to the whole sea lion debacle. Also, take note that endangered stellar sea lions are enjoying salmon in the estuary, even as there is a volunteer navy actively harassing birds.
Very shortly, note that anglers will again be paid bounties to catch and kill smolt eating northern pikeminnow, formerly known as squawfish.
All of these hazings, relocations and sanctioned killings have not gotten any of our endangered salmon and steelhead off the list.
Nor has our manufacturing of about 140-150 million salmon/steelhead smolts released from hatcheries into the Columbia/Snake each year done anything to remove or even better the situation for our embattled wild fish.
Other complicated tactics, such as barging smolts, have not improved adult returns of wild and endangered fish and so you must ask yourself would I continue throwing away money and effort on things that are not working or should now be the time to find a real solution?
A solutions table is the simple solution to moving out of the courtroom and getting to an actual solution that gets these fish off the list and recovered. Why would sensible people not want to find an actual solution that will be much simpler than our complicated failed designs.
What do you think?