No, there is a very good reason why there is a push for the removal of the four lower Snake River dams and it can easily be explained with a comparison of smolt to adult return rates for fish above all eight dams and for fish in the Yakima River, which is above the four Columbia River dams (Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day and McNary dams).
Smolt to adult return rates are a simple calculation and since we incessantly count anadromous fish in the Snake and Columbia rivers the data is relatively easy to come by. To explain it in the simplest terms, we count the number of smolts going out at a specific location and then we count the returning adults a few years later and then we calculate the percentage of adults that returned from the number of smolts we counted going out. You will see it in salmon literature as a SAR (no, that's not a search and rescue operation, though writing about salmon recovery sometimes seems that way).
We have SAR data for Snake River salmon back into the 1960s and SAR data for Yakima River salmon back to the mid-1980s, thus comparing the two can give you a pretty good hunch that talk of removing four lower Snake River dams isn't some grand conspiracy of some nefarious group hellbent on destroying America, but rather the conclusion of reasonable people who have looked at the science and the data and the reality of salmon decline in the Snake River basin.
You can look at the chart at the end of this blog post. Bert Bowler sent it to me. He knows his stuff, you can learn a lot from his website as well and I encourage you to go here to do just that.
The likely window for true Snake River salmon and steelhead recovery is a smolt to adult return rate of 2-6 percent in eight consecutive years. The Yakima salmon have been in the 2-6 percent window some in the 1980s, in the early 1990s and pretty much every year since 1998, even exceeding the preferred range of smolt to adult returns.
What about the Snake River salmon? From 1964 to 1970, the Snake River salmon and steelhead were able to stay in the preferred range. Ice Harbor Dam was constructed in 1962, Lower Monumental Dam in 1969, and Little Goose in 1970. And you have to see the drop in the smolt to adult returns in that graph as those dams are coming online. The bottom fell out, then there was a one year return to the preferred window of SAR, and then with the completion of Lower Granite Dam in 1975 the smolt to adult return rates for Snake River salmon dropped below the 2 percent threshold and stayed there for some quarter century before the great return year of 2001 saw the SAR rise above 2 percent to about 4 percent. Then note that it dropped back below the range again.
It doesn't take a genius to put two and two together. It's a decision you have to make. Do you want those dams? If yes, you also accept the extinction of Idaho's salmon and steelhead. Or do you want Idaho's and eastern Oregon's salmon and steelhead to recover? If so, you must accept that those four dams have to be removed. I choose the latter, how about you?