Ask anglers what happened to all of their fishing opportunities the last 10 years after the 2 Elwha river dams were breached?
March 18, 2021
Recently the great wolf conservationist Jim Peek wrote a letter to the editor championing the Salmon conservation success story of the 2 Elwa dams in Washington state that were breached beginning in 2011. Peek claims "These fish began to rapidly fill in the waters above the dam sites." Other advocates of destroying the four Lower Snake River dams point to the removal of the Elwha dam on the Olympic Peninsula as a successful model that proves dam removal would help salmon on the Snake. One reason they make this claim is that they haven’t looked at the results!
What Dr. Peek and the enviro's don't mention is that when the 2 Elwha Dams began to come out in 2011, authorities closed fishing of all species (commercial and sport) including catch and release on the Elwha and 100% of it's tributaries. Fisherman were told that the fishing closure would only be temporally. Now a decade later the fishing is still closed because the fish returns have failed to meet objectives. While the mainstream media is claiming the Elwha Chinook are "surging" back", the WA Dept of fish and Wildlife and NOAA tell a different story. Even after years of liberal hatchery smolt releases and pristine habitat restoration projects, 96% of the returns are hatchery fish as the wild fish are not returning as predicted. In 2019, the ESA journals recognized that dam breaching activist writers were leaving out important facts like the massive amount of sediment being released after breaching. Some WA experts are claiming it could be at least 35 years or even longer before recovery goals are met and fisheries could open back up on the Elwha. Is it possible that the snake river tributaries along with its thousands of miles of pristine spawning habitats could be closed to all type of fishing also? We don't know the answer to this but we do know what bureaucrats and enviro's promised the anglers and guides on the Elwha river prior to breaching and they are not happy with the results! The power within the quagmire of abusive ESA policies cannot be taken lightly! Be careful with what you want to breach!
Dr. David Welch's emergency letter
On Wednesday, March 17, Dr. David Welch, President of the Kintama Research Services who are the world leaders in the design, deployment and operation of large-scale underwater acoustic telemetry arrays sent an emergency letter to the Northwest governors, congress members and policy makers regarding the dire condition of Pacific coast salmon. In the letter, Dr. Welch stated the majority of damless and damed river are also in serious trouble and that if all 8 snake and Columbia rivers were to be removed SAR rates would only increase from 1.1% to 1.5% which is not even close to the long-promised 4% needed for recovery. Dr. Welch states in his letter that it is mathematically impossible to achiever the accaptable fish returns the enviro's want even if all the dams were were gone. Dr. Welch just completed a 2020 study comparing west coast Chinook returns on damed and damless river and found very similar return levels and in most cases survival rates were higher through each snake river dam than most damless rivers. This data being used is not Dr. Welch's but individual state and government data sets that were used to compile this analysis.
Damless river closures, gill nets and predators.
Currently many damless rivers are being closed due to poor runs. As of March of 2021, many Washington rivers with no dams are being closed due to poor runs. Meanwhile sea lion populations have increased by at least 500% since the 70’s but most state and tribal leaders don’t have the intestinal fortitude to touch the predator or gill net discussion! Why didn't the dams fail in 2010 when the Bonneville dam recorded it's highest fish count since the dam was operational in 1938. The same year, British Columbia's huge Fraser river which has been the greatest salmonid producing system in the world had the highest salmon count since 1913! To learn more about comparing fish returns on damed and damless rivers click here.
Just how sneaky and tricky are the environmentalist?
When Brian Brooks went to work for the Idaho Wildlife Federation (IWF), he was caught posting on social media insinuating IWF didn't support breaching the dams. When in fact at the same time his supervisors at the parent organization the National Wildlife Federation was creditiing him for his enviromental work in breaching dams and creating more roadless areas in Idaho to increase wilderness areas. This is why the Idaho Wildlife Federation is such an effective green decoy group!
How successful are the snake river dams?
In 2007, University of Idaho fisheries researchers trapped adult spring Chinook and steelhead at Ice Harbor Dam and radio tracked them from below Ice Harbor to their spawning grounds in Idaho. Spring Chinook and steelhead survival exceeded 99 percent through four dams and reservoirs and many miles above the dams to spawning areas. When compared with the Columbia river dams, survival is higher through lower Snake River reaches.
The 2016 NOAA Fisheries report on Snake River salmon and Puget Sound orca notes that dam removal would be of “marginal,” at best, benefit to orca. Additionally, the dams’ impact on salmon is now extremely small. Peter Kareiva, who served as chief scientist of the Nature Conservancy, agrees. Last year he wrote, “it is not certain that dams now cause higher mortality than would arise in a free-flowing river.” Peter Kareiva, who served as chief scientist of the Nature Conservancy, agrees. Last year he wrote, “it is not certain that dams now cause higher mortality than would arise in a free-flowing river.”
Smolt survival through all 8 dams is 72%. In the Skalski report, he reports survival through the dam alone (i.e., from the upper face of the dam to the tailrace) is greater than the compliance standard of 96% at most of the dams. So, taking this as the lower level, survival through 8 dams is 0.96x0.96x0.96…x0.96=(0.96)8 =0.72 (72%). To get 1% SAR all other sources of mortality combined must be 1/72=1.4% (because 72% times 1.4%=1%). All these other, non-dam related, sources of mortality are far more important… the dam component is tiny, even when considering all 8 dams. The Snake River component is even smaller (0.964=85% survival).