Another thing we would have to consider seriously after we get the powers that be to breach these four lower Snake River dams is that we have a bunch of hatcheries that need to be decommissioned. It is truly a shame that we don't have better data on the wild/natural origin fish from all the various Pacific salmon races and all of their various natal streams. There's going to be a strong effort by government agencies to keep these hatcheries. They've been around for more than a century in some cases. I am almost positive that some sort of mixed approach would be agreed upon should those who run things finally decide that we actually can live without these four deadbeat dams.
First off, the Snake River sockeye hatcheries would continue. There is no doubt in my mind about that. I wonder if hatcheries like Rapid River, where they are pure mitigation and actually use a different stream than where they are mitigating would survive, but then I think that is in Idaho and the popularity of the fishery would probably determine the hatchery's fate. Remember, Idaho Fish and Game are all about take. They don't have a mission statement, but when pressed they refer you to the 1938 policy statement that is only concerned with the taking of fish and wildlife.
I imagine there will be some streams where there is some sort of effort to remove the hatchery presence immediately and some where the hatchery presence is phased out perhaps over a four to eight year process. If eight years, they probably will do some sort of phase out that allows the hatchery to get enough fish to operate for the next eight years (so they collect brood stock for the first four years) and then years five through eight they simply allow the returning adults unfettered access to the stream to see if supplementation works. I think this might be the future should four lower Snake River dams ever be breached.
It would be a massive planning effort and I believe you are going to see some hatcheries continue on into the future unabated, some phased out over a period of some predetermined set of years and some phased out immediately. While all of this is going on there will be plenty of fisheries biology research to be done determining the efficacy of these hatchery programs or the efficacy of phasing out and allowing the supplementation to occur and also the ability of wild/natural origin stocks to rebound in this new world.
I am sure there will be other nuances and realities in that world that is possible should we so choose. Well, it is something to think about. It would be a challenging, but I think rewarding possible future. The one thing I am sure about is that we will have better returns of wild fish and we will move the dial back in the direction of mankind working within nature, instead of where we normally turn the dial of mankind taming and controlling nature.
Well, you can let your voice be heard on this by participating in the Free the Snake Flotilla on October 3. It should be a simple, clear statement by some people in boats. Please, powers that be, recognize that the four lower Snake River dams are killing off our salmon runs, which is having detrimental effects throughout the food chain and that these dams are far too costly to maintain for what they do provide.