When he said that, the real reason for the task force was clear, it's a PR stunt. Another government official or group who feigns care, so Joe the unattentive voter thinks something is being done about the fact that Joe the unattentive angler can't fish for chinook on the South Fork of the Salmon, or for steelhead or chinook somewhere else.
The salmon advocates in the room should have stood up when those words were uttered and delivered an ultimatum to the governor that the only reason they were there was to figure out how to make breaching work for people to be unharmed by the one thing, the silver bullet if you will, that will recover our wild Snake River salmonids...breaching four lower Snake River dams that bleed money, about $100 million per year before we pony up $300 to $800 million each year on fish and wildlife mitigation. Those salmon advocates from Trout Unlimited, Idaho Conservation League, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe, Idaho Wildlife Federation and whoever else was there to recover salmon should have issued that ultimatum and walked out. They should have let the governor know they'd be happy to come back when the governor was serious about salmon recovery. They didn't as it seems clear from the media reports of the first meeting. And their best chance to advocate for salmon recovery, true recovery was lost. Their best chance to steer this task force in the only direction it can go and truly be successful in recovering Snake River salmon was lost, on the first day. The Governor showed his weakness, he's more concerned about keeping the group together than he is about salmon recovery. You should have called him on it. It was right there in front of you. Mix it up and take chances for salmon before we lose them forever, which I know you know is unacceptable.
I know it's not in the DNA of ICL and TU to do something so dramatic, they succeed by building relationships, and don't get me wrong, I know they succeed. But this is not a time to go hat in hand to the government and say "please sir, would you please consider a discussion about how we might come to an agreement on recovering salmon?" No, the returns over the past few years have been far beyond dismal. Let me clear, the return numbers have been terrible for the past 44 years. We've officially been aware of it since we listed Snake River sockeye in 1991. We allowed Snake River coho to go extinct in the 1980s. We listed Snake River chinook in 1992 and Snake River steelhead in 1997. Very quickly the science zeroed in on the cause, too many dams. There was a push to breach those dams in the early 2000s, but that failed. Since then, we've simply been fortunate that salmon are resilient. That resiliency is running out of time.
The new challenge that has been with us since dam breaching failed to win the hearts and minds of Bush administration bureaucrats, and it was actually put in writing in the BPA fish accords is that those that take the money can't talk about the federal dam projects in a negative way. They can't point out the facts about what those dams have done. That argument has been left to salmon advocates who were smart enough and principled enough to reject the fish accords. The new challenge you will see over and over again is that someone who claims some position of authority will take breaching off the table before it can be discussed. I've even run into those who point out that breaching is the way to solve the problem but that no one takes that seriously so they then proceed to talk about all their wild ideas that don't work, won't work, and never had a chance of working because there's one truth that all these people who won't talk about breaching fail to get or refuse to acknowledge (more likely, I mean they know, I'm being nice when I say they are ignorant, they know, they just won't do anything about it) YOU CANNOT SOLVE A PROBLEM WHEN YOU REFUSE TO ADDRESS THE ROOT CAUSE OF THAT PROBLEM!.
We need leadership, we don't have that. A leader is informed. A leader takes that information and stares hard at that always unpleasant solution that addresses the root cause of the problem and acts to address that root cause. It is not leadership to build more hatcheries. It is not leadership to fix a tributary, though that needs to be done, it does not address the cause of the problem nor will it magically solve the problem. It is not leadership to truck or barge juveniles and adults, those are failed mitigation attempts that at the end of the day make mankind look like fools.
Gov. Little if you truly want salmon to recover in the Snake River Basin you need to get behind breaching the four lower Snake River dams. Here's why, not that you don't already know this, and if you don't already know this, you need to fire those advising you because they do you and this state and it's people a great disservice.
The number one killer of Snake River salmonids are the dams and the slackwater behind them. Have one of your advisors hand you a Preliminary survival estimates for the passage of spring-migrating juvenile salmonids through Snake and Columbia River dams and reservoirs, 2018. The author of this is Richard W. Zabel. Now I'm going to flip some of the government euphemism that Zabel uses from survival rates to mortality rates so some easy math will be required as you follow along.
The 25-year average of juvenile chinook mortality through the hydrosystem (defined by NOAA as from the tailrace below Lower Granite Dam to the tailrace below Bonneville Dam, note that that definition excludes the Lower Granite Reservoir which kills an additional 12 percent of juvenile salmonids so you'll need to add 12 percent to this number) is 51.1 percent. The hydrosystem kills more than half of the outmigrating chinook, add the 12 percent as you should and as Zabel should the hydrosystem is killing 63.1 percent of chinook on their way to sea. You might gaze at the number Governor and you might note that it is more than half of the migrating juvenile chinook dying in the hydrosystem. Maybe they were killed by the nonnative smallmouth bass and walleye or the native northern pikeminnow, maybe they died because the slackwater was too warm, maybe they died because their biology is that they are pushed to sea on the freshets so that they don't expend much energy, but now they have to turn around and swim toward the ocean from the Lewiston area (where I live) and that energy use kills them off. Also, they die crossing over and through the dams. The federal government and every port authority from here to Portland will give you misleading facts about dam survival. They'll say something about 97 percent survive through the dams. Well, that's a damn lie. If you actually do the math of each project's survival from one side of the concrete to the other and that is what we are talking about when they lie and say something to the effect that 97 percent survive through the dams, when you do the math Governor and apply it to 100 salmon above Lower Granite Dam that can somehow magically survive the perils of all the reservoirs, you get 77 salmon at the tailrace below Bonneville. Suddenly, the federal government's 3 percent mortality is actually 23 percent and we haven't even factored in the mortality of the reservoirs. Do you want to know how many juvenile salmonids die in the reservoirs? Subtract 23 from 63.1 and that will give you how many chinook juveniles are dying in the reservoirs.
It's also bad for steelhead and really bad for sockeye. The 25-year average for steelhead mortality through the whole hydrosystem (Snake River trap to Bonneville tailrace) is 54.4 percent, again more than half. Snake River juvenile sockeye mortality in just the NOAA defined hydrosystem is 59.4 percent, again more than half. I want to be clear with my next point because a whole lot of people just don't get it. Maybe they had bad math teachers or maybe they were just bad at math.
IF SOMETHING KILLS MORE THAN HALF OF SOMETHING, IT IS BY DEFINITION THE NUMBER ONE KILLER OF THAT SOMETHING!
Sea lions do kill salmon, but nowhere near what our dams do. Fish eating birds in the estuary do kill salmon, but again nowhere near what our dams do. Ocean predators and that NE Pacific Blob do kill salmon, anglers do kill salmon, commercial fishing, tribal fishing do kill salmon, but all of those combined do not kill anywhere near the number of salmon that our dams and reservoirs do on only their outmigration to sea. Then when the adults return those dams and reservoirs kill adult salmon.
The dams are the root cause of the Snake River salmon crisis, Governor. And you won't solve a problem until you address the root cause of that problem. You learn that in Leadership 101, Governor.
I can't for the life of me fathom why you claim that dam breaching is a polarizing issue. It ought to be clear that these dams are losing money, it ought to be clear to you that the BPA can't market its power from these dams at competitive rates. It ought to be clear to you that the shipping is negligible and if that seems familiar, yeah, that's the US Army Corps of Engineers' own word when describing shipping on the lower Snake River. It ought to be clear that 13 corporate farmers sucking water out from behind Ice Harbor Dam can still get water from a free flowing lower Snake River with the extension of pipe. It ought to be clear to you that there is a rail line that could get Palouse wheat and anything else to market. And when you factor in the absolute boondoggle waste of taxpayer and rate payer money, it ought to be clear to you that those few who benefit from these dams can be held harmless when we breach. If it's not clear, then perhaps you lack the imagination that leadership requires. If you breach, the salmon will recover, just ask the American Fisheries Society Western Division. If you breach, you'll see an uptick in tourism money from anglers and rafters. If you breach, the Lewiston area won't skip a beat economically. If you breach, we stop wasting money on deadbeat dams. And most importantly, if you breach we push dam mortality for Snake River salmonids downstream to the last 10 miles of the Snake River where the slackwater from McNary Dam on the Columbia River begins to pile up. And in doing so you give salmon all the fighting chance they need.
Until you get on board with the only solution for Snake River salmon, you're just pulling a PR stunt, you're just feigning care and frankly I and hundreds of thousands of Pacific Northwesterners are not impressed. Do your job.