It is endgame for Snake River salmon, one of the world’s most magnificent, unique, perpetually renewable natural resources. Their migratory range extends from 7000 feet in elevation 700 miles inland and thousands of miles along the Pacific Coast. A genetic heritage millions of years in the making, once numbering in the millions of adult fish annually, driven to the brink of extinction in 50 years by incompetent mediocrities and corrupt political hacks who lost their moral bearings and betrayed the public trust.
Bonneville Power Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA Fisheries and Northwest Power and Conservation Council for 40 years have used public funds to subvert the Snake River salmon restoration provisions of the Northwest Power Act of 1980. They drove Snake River salmon to threatened and endangered status under the Endangered Species Act. Now they collaborate to subvert the ESA.
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council is poised in February 2022 to adopt its 8th so-called regional power plan, which includes the Council’s so-called fish and wildlife program, which is based on extinction of Snake River salmon. The new power plan would perpetuate the most economically costly, ecologically and socially destructive energy portfolio/supply in the Nation.
It’s happening in plain sight.
This is difficult not to notice. Many have made the necessary effort, including the news media, elected officials, and salmon advocates chasing the salmon killers’ latest sham “collaborative” process designed to divert attention from the elephant in the room—four zombie Army Corps of Engineers dams on the lower Snake River in southeastern Washington.
It’s a long story. But the beginning of the end is in sight. It’s not looking good to be a happy ending.
In short. Four Army Corps of Engineers pork barrel dams completed 1961-1975 on the lower Snake River were supposed to be designed to allow safe passage for juvenile salmon migrating from the vast pristine headwaters of the Snake River Basin to the Pacific Ocean.
The Corps ignored that requirement of law. It made no provision—you read that right—no provision for juvenile salmon to migrate from the largest pristine salmon habitat in the continental U.S. past the dams to the ocean. As long predicted, disaster struck; juvenile salmon were unable to migrate through the reservoirs and past the dams. They died.
Faced with an impending catastrophe of epic proportions, Congress acted with uncharacteristic swiftness. It enacted what is commonly called the Northwest Power Act of 1980. The Act mandated Snake River salmon be protected and restored, while maintaining a reliable and economical regional power supply.
“. . . conservation and enhancement of the great migratory fish and wildlife populations of the Pacific Northwest, something of great concern to the sportsmen and conservationists of this Nation, are for the first time, a matter of urgent priority under this legislation. They are placed on a par with other purposes for Federal facilities in this area. If the fish populations of the Pacific Northwest are to be restored to the sportsmen, the Indians and the commercial fishermen, this is the mechanism which will do it.” 126 Cong. Rec. H10680 (Rep. Dingell)
In the spirit of federalism, the Act gave the four Northwest states (ID, WA, MT, OR) opportunity, through what is now the governor-appointed Northwest Power and Conservation Council, ONE YEAR to produce a plan to change the Federal Columbia River Power System as necessary to accomplish that objective.
Forty YEARS later, Snake River salmon, a unique-in-the-world genetic heritage, once numbering in the millions of perpetually renewable adult fish, are classified as threatened and endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Billions of taxpayer and electric ratepayer dollars have been spent/wasted; billions of dollars in damage suffered. Untold thousands of jobs lost; many small businesses destroyed.
The ecological and economic damage extends throughout the migratory range of Snake River salmon 700 miles inland and thousands of miles along the Pacific Coast. It ranges the gamut from depriving ESA-listed bull trout and a multitude of other freshwater organisms of critical marine-derived nutrients, to impoverishing ESA-listed Southern Pod Orca by denying them a critical food resource.
ESA-listed sea lions preying on comparatively inconsequential numbers of adult ESA-listed salmon are killed in a grotesque “salmon protection” public relations scam while Bonneville Power Administration, Corps of Engineers, NOAA Fisheries and the Council promote the annual slaughter millions of juvenile endangered salmon at the four dysfunctional lower Snake River dams.
The Snake River salmon-killing federal agencies spent $110 million on studies which—despite their herculean efforts to cover it up—show the four ill-designed dams on the lower Snake River must be breached if Snake River salmon are to be restored. Further, that breaching the uneconomical zombie dams would reduce Bonneville’s costs and its customers' electric power rates.
The Council’s draft power plan contains what is supposed to be a salmon restoration plan, but instead is a Snake River salmon extinction plan. The federal agencies have conclusively demonstrated that ONLY breaching the four lower Snake dams will restore Snake River salmon as required by the Power Act.
The Council’s draft power plan shows that the energy production that would be forgone by breaching those uneconomical dams was long ago replaced many times over by conservation as envisioned by the 1980 Act. And that the forgone uneconomical energy vanishes into forecasted very large surpluses of far cheaper energy.
No matter, the Council obdurately refuses to even analyze the effects of breaching the dams in its draft power plan. Worse, in blatant in-your-face rejection of the plain language and intent of the 1980 Power Act, it claims it has no legal authority to do so.
The Council’s pending 8th power plan is the culmination of 40 years of malfeasance and betrayal of the public trust. It is the manifestation of pure, unadulterated corruption on an epic scale that will echo in perpetuity.
It’s happening in plain sight.
Ed Chaney, Guest Contributor
*Ed Chaney has 50 years of professional experience with Snake River salmon. In 1976 he founded the non-profit Northwest Resource Information Center in response to their then-perilous status. He is author of numerous regional and subregional natural resource management plans, and innumerable technical reports, articles and essays. He has served as consultant to agencies of the United States Government, to agencies of state governments, to governors of states, to Native American Indian tribes, to regional inter-governmental councils and commissions in the Pacific Northwest. He has many times provided invited expert testimony before governmental bodies, including committees of the United States Congress.
NRIC has established a digital Snake River Salmon Killer Memorial Dog Park. A gallery of fire hydrants will display the names and photos of principal Snake River salmon killers, including individual Council members. These digital notes-in-a-bottle will be widely launched into cyber space to endure and bear witness to future generations about the ecological crime against humanity these individuals committed.