The Salmon Issue-really long now, but very calm.

denniskrockwell at denniskrockwell at
Wed Feb 24 17:19:22 PST 1999

Ms. Beutler:

Thank you. It's nice to at last have a discussion with someone on this
issue who at least has most of their salmon facts right even if I
disagree with some of your emphasis. On the other hand, it's really
rankling to be talked down to in the condescending tone you take in the
beginning of this post. Just because it's my lot in life to earn my
living through manual labor, doesn't make me a simpleton. I could read a
map before you were born.

Since I've come to the conclusion that it is intellectually dishonest to
chop someone's post up into snips when responding to it, I've included
your original post in it's entirety. At least it will have continuity.

And just to level the field, let's pretend that my part in this debate is
read by William F. Buckley Jr. and yours is read by Daffy Duck. ;-)

On Mon, 22 Feb 1999 19:50:43 -0800 "Deb Beutler"
<dbeutler at> writes:

>Oh, my gosh, I am so hyped up I don't know where to start. (I know this

is off-topic but I have to respond). I promise >there will be no
swearing and no name-calling from this eco-terrorist, femi-Nazi. : )

>Mr. Rockwell, Moscow, Idaho, is only 30 miles north of Lewiston, Idaho.

Much of the grain and other crops grown >around Moscow and Pullman is
barged out of Lewiston. Therefore, Mr. Goble and I both live in parts of
Idaho and

>Washington that would be affected economically. We don't live in

Portland or Seattle; we live in the affected area. >The Palouse would be
just as affected as the Tri-cities. Granted, farmers don't use
irrigation here but they do use >the barges as transport.

Yes indeed.

> Granted, I don't work for an agriculture-related business

Neither do I.

> but if the farm economy in the area suffers, my pocketbook will suffer

as well.

If those dams are breached this whole region is going to suffer a lot
more than just a little pocketbook pinching. Of course, you've got that
fine college degree in your pocket too and you're getting closer to that
doctorate, you've got your youth and your health. When the crunch comes,
if need be you can pick up and go where you want and stand a pretty good
chance of achieving a decent standard of living wherever it is you land.
I, on the other hand, will be essentially be drug to the edge of the
village and thrown on the midden to decompose with the rest of the
Mr. Goble risks paying a few more cents per gallon for gasoline, I risk
loss of livelihood and ending my live hunting my sustenance in dumpsters.
It's not exactly the same thing. And I don't see anyone in the
environmental movement, of which until just recently I'd always thought I
was a member, clambering to "Save the People" in an immediate,
here-and-now context that would have any bearing on the existence of the
people who would be most seriously impacted by this proposed experiment.

>Mr. Rockwell seems to think the only people directly affected by the

dams vs. salmon question is farmers and >transporters.

It's awfully presumptuous of you to tell the world what Mr. Rockwell
thinks. Mr. Rockwell is not the simple-minded dullard you assume him to
be. Mr. Rockwell understands quite well how complex is the web of
businesses and people that make up the regional economy just as he
understands how complex is the web of life that makes up the natural

> However, there are many other individuals affect. For example, the

Native American tribes who have used salmon >as a protein source and
spiritual/cultural icon.

I think you mean that my neighbors, the Yakamas and the Umatillas among
others, see the salmon as a food and a god. I had that figured out long
before you were born too.

> For them, the loss of the salmon is just as much of a hardship as the

loss of the dams and irrigation would be to >the farmers. There are
also the salmon-related industries, particularly fishing guides and
angler suppliers. >Without salmon, these people suffer economically as
well. They are just trying to feed and clothe their families as >well.
They just don't have the strong lobbying voice that the farmers have.

You clearly know your biology, but it doesn't sound to me like you have a
firm grasp on political realities. The fishermen/women - native
americans, commercial and sports - have many of the politicians from the
west side urban areas firmly in their pockets to say nothing of the full
backing and support of the Nation Marine Fisheries Service and the U. S.
Department of Commerce. And as it has been pointed out recently, it
isn't just the people who are going to be directly affected by this issue
who get to decide how it turns out.

>Mr. Rockwell also takes the position that the four lower Snake River

dams shouldn't be breached until the upper Snake River dams, which don't
have fish ladders, are breached. To argue against this point, you need
to look at a >map of the Snake and Salmon Rivers. The endangered salmon
and steelhead runs are the ones spawning in the >Salmon River. The
confluence of the Salmon River and the Snake River occurs in Hell's
Canyon BELOW the

>Hells Canyon Dam. Salmon spawning in the Salmon River have to pass

LOWER GRANITE DAM, the most >upstream of the four lower Snake River dam
and not dams in Idaho. Therefore, the dams on the upper Snake to >not
threat those populations.

Actually, Mr. Rockwell doesn't contend anything of the kind. Mr.
Rockwell was merely trying to make the point that thoughtless practices
across the border in Idaho had already destroyed most of Idaho's salmon
runs decades ago.
And there is nothing stopping Idaho, except the enormous economical
impracticality of it all, from tearing those fishladderless dams down,
restoring the natural habitat and replanting some salmon. It's not any
crazier an idea than breaching the Snake River dams to "restore" the
Salmon River chinook and steelhead runs or the Redlake sockeye run (which
has actually been extinct since before 1920.)

> As far as salmon runs in the other river systems above the four dams,

the Palouse never had salmon because of >one natural, insurmountable
barrier: Palouse Falls.

Got me there. That's what I get for writing in a hurry.

> As far as the other rivers in the area, I'm not sure about the status

of those runs. So what about the Upper Snake River. Why aren't we
screaming to breach those dams to save salmon? Because there aren't any
salmon to save.

>Salmon may have made it up the Snake as far as Twin Falls

Just a little more reading on your part would reveal that a significant
salmon run existed, which made it as far as Twin Falls, prior to Idaho
dam construction.

> but definitely no farther; they couldn't jump the falls, both Twin

Falls and Shoshone Falls. Most of the tributaries >along the Snake
between Hell's Canyon Dam and Twin Falls may have had salmon

did have salmon

> but they were wiped out in the 1930's. Therefore, breaching upper

Snake River dams wouldn't save any salmon >runs (except maybe by adding
more water to the system to flush the smolts).

Another fallacy which ongoing research will disprove.

>Most people think the problem with dams is the adults can't get over


Most people in this region have been to the dams, seen the fish ladders,
compared them with the natural barriers in the river that the fish faced
before construction of the dams and realize that is actually easier for
the salmon to get upstream now than before. Granted, dams *do* create
other problems for the salmon, which you now begin to enumerate below.

>Few people recognize an even more important problems with dams: the

young fish have problems getting through >the dams and the reservoirs.
Most credible scientist agree that dams are bad for salmon.

Even ordinary citizens acknowledge that dams are probably bad for salmon,
the question is "How bad?" "Surmountable or unsurmountable?"

>There is no question that the dams kill salmon. Even the best designed

dams kill salmon.

I continue to agree with you as far as you go, but the argument isn't
over whether or not dams kill fish, it's over whether they kill more or
fewer fish than were killed by the natural hazards in the river before
dam construction.

>Dams kill salmon in several obvious ways: 1) directly by the turbines,

2) directly by altering the blood gases when >the fish are flushed
through the system without even going through the turbines, 3) indirectly
by altering the >predators that the fish face

And while you've broached the subject, let's not forget that the state
fisheries departments over the years have made things even worse for the
salmon by stocking food competitors (shad) and predators (walleye) in the
river systems.

>(slackwater has more predatory fish than the faster running water

would). They also affect salmon in less obvious

>ways by: 1) reducing spawning habitat (the bottom of a reservoir is too


And yet the Corps of Engineers have discovered salmon redds in the
raceways of the barge locks at some dams.

>and silty to spawn in), 2) slowing the passage of fish both up and down

the river resulting in longer exposure to >riverine predators, 3)
increasing the length of time and the amount of energy it takes salmon to
reach the ocean.

>These are just a few of the potential ways dams can affect salmon.

I think you'll that find you've actually covered most of the problems
rather well. The question that hasn't been answered to the satisfaction
of a lot of people however is, are these big problems or little problems
for the salmon compared to the other, non-dam related problems affecting
salmon that you list further on?

>Traditionally, our response to these problems has been to throw

technology at the problem. Reduced fish >spawning habitat was replaced
with hatcheries, which introduce a new set of problems (if you want to
know what

>problems, let me know).

I've read about them; I acknowledge their existence and their

>Turbine mortality was reduced by fish by-passes which come with other

problems. We have hasten the passage of >fish through the system by
barging the fish past the dams. All of these things haven't stopped the
decline of these >fish runs.

But given the rest of the problems which you now list, where is the logic
in focusing on this proposed experiment of dam breaching, given the
degree of immediate and profound impact it will have on human lives?

>The salmon vs. dams problem is so very complicated. Obviously, dams

aren't the only problem. The populations >are harvested so maybe over
harvesting is a problem.

Maybe? We have fish species which it is said are threatened with
extinction and yet harvest of these fish continues.
Why doesn't this sound crazy to anyone besides me?

>The habitat in the remain spawning streams have been degraded by

logging, grazing, and mining. What about the >ocean? Maybe we are
taking too many in the ocean or the ocean has become less suitable.

Now you are making my points for me.

>All of these are confounding factors but a few things point to the lower

Snake River dams.

>1) Most of the runs that are in trouble are endangered (about to become

extinct) above the four lower Snake River >dams. Most of the runs below
the dams are stable, particularly the population in the Hanford Reach
which is on the >Columbia just upstream of the confluents of the Snake
and Columbia River.

>2) The biggest declines in runs occur just after the dams were created.

Each dam seemed to decrease the >number of fish (as counted by either
numbers landed or the number of egg nest). However, this decrease is

>to confirm because the numbers fluctuate. (Actual data is so darn


At this point I must congratulate you on your honesty. You are one of
the few people I have encountered on either side of this debate who is
willing to acknowledge how difficult it is to extract trustworthy
information out of the currently available data. Which brings us back to
the fact that this whole dam breaching idea is currently based on
somebody's best guess.

>I'm not just making this up and I'm not just taking it from one book. I

am looking at graphs of the actual numbers of >fish. I haven't relied on
other peoples opinions. I have taken the time to look at the data and
make the decision on >where I stand based on the data.

>I have to confess, when I first started looking at the problem, I was

leaning on Mr. Rockwell side. I thought that >breaching the dam was an
over-reaction and would simply cost too much. I thought other fixes
would work better. >Then I took a discussion class here at WSU which was
supervised by a fish geneticist and avid angler and >included grad
students on all sides of the issue. We started by reading the book
"River of Life, Channel of Death" >by Keith C. Petersen and Mr. Petersen
came to our class and we had a discussion with him. I was still against

>breaching the dam. Then we read a publication from the Northwest Power

Planning Council called "Return to the >River: Restoration of Salmonid
Fishes in the Columbia River Ecosytem". This is a free publication, 580
pages >long, which can be downloaded (FTP) at or you can
have a copy mailed to you by writing the >Northwest Power Planning
Council, 851 S.W. Sixth Avenue, Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97204-1348.
This huge >volume is not as easy to read as the other books but at least
the data is presented and referenced. It was written >by a group of
independent scientists with a wide range of backgrounds, opinions, and
views. At times, it >contradicts itself; you can just imagine the
committee meetings raging on about some points. But after reading the

>whole thing, I became convinced that the only way to save the salmon in

the Upper Snake is to breach the four >lower Snake River dams. After
reading the evidence, you may decide something else. But at least you
know where >the data and the opinion came from.

>We should also realize that breaching of the dams will happen

eventually. Dams have a relatively short life span >(geologically
speaking). They silt in. The slowing of the river flow stops the
scouring of the channel and the silt >builds up until they can't produce
electricity any more and the barges can't make it upstream. And we're
not talking >centuries here; we are talking a few more decades. (And
before you ask, no, I haven't read "The Great Salmon >Hoax" but I will.)

>While I think breaching the dam is the only way to save the salmon, I'm

not sure we should save it. We are talking >about a few runs; there are
salmon else where. This doesn't help the Nez Perce around Lewiston and

>tribes that depend on the salmon. My personal opinion is that it is too

late to save them at all. The populations are >already too low for most
of the species and I doubt they can recover. However, if we decide not
to breach the dams, >we should throw in the towel completely. Why
continue to barge the smolts, release fish from hatcheries and try all

>of this habitat restoration when we won't do the one thing most

scientist say will help the most? Why throw the >other money down the
river? Let's just take all of the remain salmon, throw a big salmon bake
and hope the >salmon in other areas survive.

Bravo. At last a ray of realism is seen shining through!

>Now, I will leave the main focus of this post and try to clear up some

misconceptions Mr. Rockwell seems to have.

>Mr. Rockwell seems to think people in favor of breaching the dams are

wealthy people. Not true.

You've read me wrong again. I just happen to think that they have a lot
more than I've got and a lot less at risk in this matter than I do.

> I happen to be acquainted with both Mr. Goble and Mr. Swift and neither

is wealthy. Personally, I am a graduate

>student, barely making $12,000 a year if I can find work in the summer.

I don't even have an IRA (I thought you were >referring to that famous
band of terrorists in Ireland).

Sure you did. And I've got a dam I'd like to sell you. :-)

> I know that breaching the dams will be expensive but I also think we

can find ways to spread the pain.

Can you understand that I might like to see that plan *before* the dams
are breached?

> Not breaching the dams is also expensive; how much does it cost to

barge fish past the dam? Mr. Rockwell >seems to think Idaho has plowed
all of its shrub-steppe habitat and still has Sharp-tailed Grouse, Sage
Thrashers, >Sage Sparrows, and pygmy rabbits. Not true.

Once again you've misunderstood me completely. I was attempting sarcasm
and some tongue-in-cheek humor.
I'm just not accustomed to dealing with the humor impaired.

> Idaho has a large amount of sage brush habitat that could not be plowed

no matter how hard you try (you can't plow lava rock).

Ah, so you do know what sarcasm is, after all.

>This is where the Sage Grouse, Sage Thrashers, and Sage Sparrows are

found. Most of the area has been grazed >by cattle or is simply left
wild (because no one can make a living on it). Some of it is part of the
INEEL, just as

>there is some shrub steppe associated with Hanford. However, any part

of the shrub steppe of Idaho that could be >plowed has been and is
irrigated to produce monocultures of potatoes, sugar beets and other
crops. These

>areas are just as barren as the monocultures around the Tri-cities. I

should know; I grew up in southern Idaho. I >know exactly where the sage
birds are and what habitat they are associated with; it's not plowed
monocultures I

>can tell you that. And the current invasion of cheat grass into the

shrub steppe is threatening to eliminate much of >the remaining habitat
of the sage birds.

Well duh, no kidding. Perhaps all this explains why I'm working so hard
to help protect and preserve the Hanford Reach, the Fitzner-Eberhardt
Arid Lands Ecology Reserve and the Walluke Slope NWR here in my home

>In Mr. Rockwell's post on Sunday February 21, 1999 at 5:49 P.M., you

were discussing how difficult it would be to >ship the agricultural
products over land. Then you write: "And as for roads, our present roads
can barely handle >their current traffic. I say you should try this
experiment around Twin Falls first. If the folks there like the impact
it >has on them, then I bet they can convince us it's a good idea." FYI,
the farmers in southern Idaho DO transport their >crops over land!

Gee whizz, no kidding, imagine that! Once again you manage to miss my
point completely. What I was suggesting was that you *add* the amount of
traffic to their current roads that would be necessary for us to *add* to
ours in order for us to convert from barge transport to truck transport
and still move the same volume of grain and fuel and then see if they
could even get out of their driveways for all the trucks on the roads.

>There is no sea port between Twin Falls or Boise and Lewiston. In order

to use barges, they would have to truck or >train their products to
Lewiston or the Tri-Cities areas. Yes, this is polluting but they have
no other options to trucks >and trains. Many of the produces, such as
potatoes and sugar beets, are processed in the area and the processed

>foods are shipped out. I know this because I was born in Blackfoot,

Idaho, and spent most of my life in southern I>daho. Yes, there are many
dams in southern Idaho, most are used for irrigation, recreation, and
hydroelectric >power but none are used for transportation and none have
salmon behind them. Most never did; those that did >were wiped out long
ago. If you don't believe me, look at a map and concentrate on the
Salmon River where the >last populations live and the location of the
dams, both Idaho and Washington. Besides, if the four lower Snake >River
dams were breached, the crops would have to be trucked to around the
Tri-cities area, not all the way to >Portland. Barge traffic would still
be possible because the lower Columbia dams would still be in place.

You are apparently unaware of the push that is now being made to disable
or breach McNary and John Day dams on the lower Columbia also to
*benefit* the Snake River salmon runs. Biggs would then become the end
of the line for barge traffic.

>Idaho irrigators have sided with their Washington brethren because they

fear that once you breach a dam, they will >all come down. For many of
the eco-extremists, that would be a great idea.

I'm certain I wouldn't be nearly so concerned if it didn't seem that the
eco-extremists were callling all the shots. And everybody, please note,
I didn't use the name first.

> However, most pro-breaching people think that breaching the other dams

would not do much good compared

>to the economic harm it will do.

I'm really curious where you got your information in that last statement

>Clearly this is a complicated situation. Name calling and knee-jerk

reactions on both sides are not helpful. >Educated dialogue on both
sides might be helpful. It's not just an argument about facts (those are

>enough), but also an argument about values. Do we want salmon or not?

Are we willing to pay the price?

> Who will pay that price?

BINGO! With that last one you have finally asked the $64,000. question,
acknowledged the 800 lb. gorilla sitting in the middle of the room and
arrived at the crux of my concern, because I think I already know the
answer to this one.

>There are costs and benefits to everything. I don't think we will have

to wait for several generations to find out

>the answer. I think the answer will come even before we can decide what

to do. While we are still arguing about >whether to breach or not
breach, the salmon will quietly fade away.

>I do agree with Mr. Rockwell on two points. First, southern Idahoans

have milked the federal subsidy cow as well >as central Washingtonians
and any westerner has. Just ask about the cost of grazing on BLM land or

>on crops. However, that doesn't make it right and many of us (southern

Idahoans and others) are trying to reduce >that as well. (No, I'm not a
vegetarian; I like a good steak as well as you do.) Second, the
commercial and sport >fishing take on salmon needs to be reduced or
eliminated at the same time the dam breaching occurs to aid the >salmon.
But don't forget, there are cost associated with this as well. Fishermen
are just trying to feed and clothe >their families as well.

>Finally, Mr. Rockwell, these reservoirs are SLACKWATER. There is no

ifs, ands, or buts about it. If you doubt it, you >should visit a
un-damned, free-flowing river (the Salmon will do). The two couldn't be
more different. Yes, the water >still goes to the Pacific but it takes
much longer than it did before the dams.

Wait a minute! Hold on there - what did you just say? How "much" longer
do you mean? A second, a minute, an hour, a day, a week, a month, a
year? I'm no hydrologist, but I've worked with water most of my life
and I have to say that that statement just doesn't ring true for me. Did
someone repeal the laws of gravity and physics while I was asleep? I
mean, once the reservoirs behind the dams were filled, a raindrop falls
on the west slope of the Rockies near Lost Trail Pass, flows into the
north fork of the Salmon River and eventually passes out the mouth of
the Columbia River into the Pacific Ocean. Before and after dam
construction it is still roughly 7,000 feet elevation difference and
exactly the same distance from Lost Trail Pass to the mouth of the
Columbia River. If I'm missing something here, I'd really like it
explained to me.

> The pools aren't stagnant but they

>definitely don't move like a free-flowing river. Altering the speed of

the water has drastically altered the visibility in >the water column
besides just deepening the water. It also alters the characteristics of
the bottom of the river. The >free-flowing rivers are mostly rock and
gravel bottom because they are scoured out every year in the spring. The

>reservoirs have a soft, silty bottom because the water slows down and

drops out the fine particles. Changing the >bottom alters the entire
ecosystem and changes the species that can live there. Slackwater
doesn't mean stagnant, it means slow moving and it alters the entire

Every word you say is true, but you know just as well as I do what my
real complaint with the expression "slackwater" is. It is a buzzword
which the extremists in this issue have used to sucker the less
knowledgeable into believing that it does mean stagnant and thus bolster
their argument in favor of breaching. It's the dishonesty of their
methods that raises my blood pressure.

>Deb Beutler

>Dept. of Zoology

>Washington State University

>Pullman, Whitman Co., WA

>dbeutler at

Dennis K Rockwell
Kennewick, Washington
denniskrockwell at

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