The general thrust of this study is that barging per say isn't the problem, but the dumb fish take the two-day ride to below Bonneville and then they don't have the sense to wait for the right time to enter the ocean. They therefore enter the ocean too early and die off.
Apparently, the two-day, no frills cruise the Corps of Engineers offers currently just ain't cutting it. Well, look for longer cruises, with more exciting ports of call than the current one stop only downstream of Bonneville Dam. Maybe the BPA and Corps could split the costs of the brochures they will need to print up letting all the juvenile salmon know about the new exciting ports of call they may get to experience so they don't enter the ocean and die too soon. I promise you, the most likely solution the feds will come up with is longer time in the hold for the smolts. I can't wait to see the future straying studies when they start holding these fish to delay their entry into the ocean.
Smoltification is a complex process. The length of the day is probably the best indication that salmon and steelhead parr are about to begin their seaward journey. The fish are also changing due to hormones that are preparing their bodies for what will be a significant change. Temperature also plays a role. During this process as the juveniles make their way down fresh water headed to salt water their bodies will change shape and color. They will have to learn how to regulate their body's salt balance as they transition from fresh to saltwater (big changes in the kidneys and gills, endocrine and metabolic changes on a grand scale relatively speaking considering the size of the average smolt). They will become more mobile, there are changes in energy storage (chances are good though this is not relevant to smoltification that a human being will likely shoot some form of electronic tracking device in their gut).
It can be compared to puberty in humans only different if you need some sort of reference. Anyway, the point being, salmon of particular streams have evolved over time to time this transformation while using free flowing rivers to get them to sea. Throw up eight gigantic, ugly, concrete walls (where is Ronald Reagan to say 'tear down this wall' when you need him?) and now salmon either have to evolve overnight into creatures that can delay this process while they swim through slackwater dodging predators and turbines or since a lot of them are barged in a quick two-day trip the evolution process is confused and naturally you get fish not knowing what to do when they hit the estuary too early. Maybe they got their ions regulated and take off into the sea when there isn't much food for them or there is the annual salmon shark convention or Orca Pod Olympics going on and the little salmon are killed in some apocalyptic scene most overstimulated humans wish for on a daily basis (hey, I'm just saying the zombie stuff and the end of the world stuff was old a long time ago).
Anyway, this is a study that will falsely give the Corps of Engineers a boost of confidence (as if they needed any in this arena) as to their smolt barging program. This is another distraction to the real issue at hand, dam removal, a return of free flowing rivers, giving salmon the proper habitat so that they can recover themselves.
I hope, those of you out there who read these studies that seem to come out every other Thursday, you don't get caught up in the fascinating minutia these studies reveal and I hope you see the real picture and that is wild salmon and steelhead in the Snake River Basin are running out of time and if those four lower Snake River dams aren't breached soon, we will have lost them forever (like we did when we lost the wild sockeye of Redfish Lake in the early 1990s, like we lost the wild coho in the 1980s). I know this stuff is interesting, but just like hatchery fish returns are used to blind anglers to the reality, these interesting fact-laden studies that examine what a salmon had for dinner and what college he might go to if he hadn't of been eaten by that sea lion at the Bonneville fish ladder, are designed to give you the impression there is a great effort going on to save the salmon from extinction. The only great effort going on is the one that gets you to ignore coming to a decision that wild salmon are worth a slight increase (if any) in your power bill. I say if any, because they spent $650 million of your electric bill money to mitigate for their dams (that would have to come back to you the rate payer if the dams were breached, it could be a wash).