If you haven't I suggest you click on the link above and read it, because it says one of the things I have been saying over and over in many different ways on this blog and that is regardless of what you see in the media about these recent fish runs they are in fact poor. Yes, fish runs are better than they were in the 1990s, but that is not the bar our fish runs must meet.
The fact that many of you can now go out and catch a hatchery fish does not a recovery make.
I also wanted to point out something I read in a draft report from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game on the management of the state's fisheries for the years 2013-2018. Actually, similar words are used on many Idaho drainages, but there isn't any action plan by IDFG and the state of Idaho to rectify the most pressing problem for our wild salmon and steelhead runs. I have made bold the most important take home points from this draft report and I only included my local stream, but again there are similar descriptions for other drainages throughout the report.
From the South Fork Salmon River Drainage portion of the draft plan for Idaho fisheries management
"Anadromous fish species (Chinook salmon, steelhead trout) have access to most of the drainage. Historically, the steelhead spawning run exceeded 3,000 fish. The South Fork Salmon River historically supported the largest summer Chinook run in the state of Idaho. Salmon fishing was a major economic resource in the SFSR prior to 1965, when anglers harvested 1,700-4,000 salmon annually. Steelhead anglers harvested 750-800 fish per year. These runs have dwindled considerably since then, and run sizes are about one-tenth of their former abundance. The seasons were closed in 1965 for Chinook and in 1968 for steelhead. The decrease in numbers of SFSR Chinook and steelhead were caused by two major problems: 1) logging and road construction activities created unstable soil conditions in the SFSR that have damaged the aquatic habitat, and 2) serious fish passage problems and increased mortality caused by construction of hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers.
The SFSR is one of only four drainages in the Columbia Basin that supports populations of wild, native steelhead trout classified as B-run. These fish are predominantly large steelhead, which spend two or three years in the ocean, compared to the smaller A-run steelhead which inhabit much of the rest of the Salmon River drainage. Preservation of this native gene pool is a high priority. Following harvest closures on cutthroat trout (1985) and bull trout (1994), and cessation of hatchery trout stocking (1993), steelhead parr became the targeted fish harvested under general bag limits. This instigated the change to a drainage-wide catch-and-release regulation, implemented in 1998."
It is true that the first major problem the wild salmon and steelhead of the South Fork of the Salmon River endured had to do with some very badly built logging roads and some rain on snow events that caused a great deal of sediment to inundate the river in the 1960s. That sediment has been somewhat pushed downstream over the years, though currently the river also has a lot of new sediment from 2008 (aftermath of 2007 catastrophic forest fires) that is also working its way down stream. But the biggest problem for all Snake River Basin wild salmon and steelhead, including the South Fork fish, remains the migratory habitat, which no longer exists in its natural form due to four lower Snake River dams that have created four large slackwater reservoirs that kill juvenile fish in a number of ways and also stress and kill adult fish.
The point I wanted to get at with the inclusion of the Idaho Fish and Game draft report is that there is no mention of any effort this state is going to make in the next five years to rectify the problem that is the primary culprit to these fish runs ever recovering. That remains the dams.
Pointing out a problem and not working to resolve it is pointless. You may say, as many do, that what can Idaho or its Fish and Game do about federal dams in Washington state? They could join the groups and people working to replace the power of those dams, thereby making them more obsolete than they are today.
How the electricity that comes into your home was made should not matter beyond whether it was produced cleanly and efficiently. Those four dams only make 4 percent of the energy in the Pacific Northwest, and we have been adding wind energy sources like mad over the past 15 years. We are beginning to tap into the never-ending supply of energy produced by wave action along the coast of Oregon. At some point, and I hope soon, we must not look at these energy sources as the BPA does or as other power entities do, as additions or nuisances and instead as replacements for those dams. The Lewiston Port is not a success and it will never be a success from a shipping standpoint. They've had several decades to prove otherwise and have not. Irrigation from these reservoirs is a non-issue, extra pipe can reach a free flowing lower Snake River and water for irrigation can be accessed. People will recreate as much on a free flowing lower Snake River as they do on those reservoirs, actually more, but the recreation element is also a non-issue. It comes down to power production, as it always has, and we have already replaced the power those dams produce. Let's keep adding more to the grid so those institutions that preside over the extinction of our wild fish can see the light that has been shining for several years now.
A solutions table has to be convened, this impasse has to be breached. Our wild salmon and steelhead won't tread water for us forever.
I have included both draft reports for Idaho Fish and Game fisheries 2013-2018 below, so you may read them and see what, if anything, the state of Idaho plans to do to rectify what is the most pressing problem for our state's dwindling wild runs of salmon and steelhead.