The study isn't saying a smolt shot through the slip n slide tube at Knox Bridge on the South Fork (sort of my backyard) has the same survival rate as a Yakima or John Day fish, but rather my lil' scrappers if they make it through the hydro system they fare comparatively well to the Sunday drivers from west of here.
Read the study and look at the numbers, I noticed that it still seemed clear that the Snake River fish were dying more often, but it wasn't a huge discrepancy. The study was done to remove some speculation as to why our Snake River fish only return at a 1.1 percent SAR, when 4 percent is needed for sustainability and even 2 percent would do. The goal of removing speculation is fine in my book. The goal of holding the dams and the hydrosystem harmless doesn't sit well with me, nor should it with you.
The study makes the BPA, Corps, BOR and now I guess DOE claim that our smolts have a 50 percent chance of surviving the hydrosystem to the sea. Hey, if our smolts could have a one in two chance of surviving the hydrosystem without our doing everything on earth to make that happen, I wouldn't be writing this blog.
How do we get to this 50 percent number? While you are thinking on that here is the national debt clock that I want you to always keep in mind when you are considering the state of our wild Snake River Salmon and Steelhead (and I forgot to mention the study was solely done with hatchery smolts, which are much larger, and I have to remind you all that hatchery fish do not count in removing these fish from the Endangered Species List, only wild fish count and wild fish make up at best 20 percent of each run in the Snake). You see the debt is at just about $16.8 trillion on April 8, 2013. It was about $14 trillion when I started this blog in November 2011.
So when I say to people, one day the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be denied funding for its dredging plan that has to extend forever in order to keep up with the sediment that the $16 million draft plan does not even come close to addressing, I am not telling tales out of school.
When I say you know one day the Army Corps of Engineers is going to have to stop barging smolts because one day something will hit the fiscal fan and humans will be chosen over fish, I'm not creating future crises out of thin air.
When I say to you at some point fisheries biologists, the good ones, the ones who want to make a substantial contribution to the science aren't going to want to spend their careers coming up with new and improved ways to count dwindling stocks of wild fish, I'm probably hitting the nail on the head there.
When I say to you that endless bounties on native fish made out to be the true enemies will one day not entice enough anglers for it to matter, I'm not a fantasy writer.
When I say to you that perhaps driving boats at birds looking for a meal in the lower Columbia will one day lead to those people doing the bird harassment for a living to stop and think, "maybe there is something more to life than this."
And how long do we harass and kill sea lions at the Bonneville fish ladder?
How long do we pour hundreds of millions per year into various mitigation plans that all fail to succeed because they simply make fish to placate anglers, be they sport anglers or tribal anglers?
How long does the ever-going-broke American taxpayer decide eternal mitigation is a better pathway forward than coming up with an actual solution?
How long does 4 percent of the Pacific Northwest's power generation, ever-dwindling river transport from the Port of Lewiston, an ever-aging but going nowhere chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee continue to hold any solution hostage. I'm not talking about just my solution or the solution of some 85 percent of fisheries biologists where dams are breached and wild salmon and steelhead given a chance to recover on their own. I am talking about any solution other than the status quo is a non-starter with those three arguments in play.
I think our appetite to continue to throw money at salmon without any strategic solution will one day taste sour in the mouth of the American taxpayer and all those bureaucracy building programs that our salmon can't live without will be cut and then we will know the true damage that these dams can do to our endangered and threatened fish and it will be too late.
My problem with this study isn't so much with the science or the hypothesis that sprung it, nor with my first gut reaction of well it was paid for by the BPA and DOE so you get what you pay for in America and they obviously want the argument to shift to that vast unknown ocean environment (and I would like to know what happens at sea, but not forget that the dams are an insurmountable obstacle without us doing things we can't possibly do forever).