News from the Front #3: 

Tribes Put Columbia Basin Project Water on the Table for Flow Augmentation

At a July 26, 1999 meeting of the "Framework/Federal Hydro Caucus Group", Bob Heineth of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission revealed that the Tribal salmon recovery proposals were rapidly expanding to include long-term consideration of drawing down Grand Coulee Dam, the Hells Canyon Complex, and imposing drastic restrictions on Columbia Basin irrigators.  Specifically, he explained that Tribal hydroregulation experts were evaluating the effect of taking one million acre-feet of water away from irrigators in the Columbia Basin Project to release it downstream for flow augmentation.  (For a lengthy demonstration that flow augmentation has essentially no measurable effect upon Columbia Basin salmon populations, see Chapter 7 of The Great Salmon Hoax and its Supplement.)

Jim Ruff and John Fazio, hydroregulation experts employed by the Northwest Power Planning Council, are working with the Tribes to model details of the Tribal proposal, which would take control of a million acre-feet of water currently impounded in Banks Lake.  (Mr. Ruff is also President of WaterWatch of Oregon, an environmentalist group that is a bane to Oregon irrigators.  Many peculiar staff decisions are the product of environmentalists controlling key staff positions in most Pacific Northwest water and wildlife agencies.)  Presumably, irrigators are funding this work through their electricity payments to BPA-supplied utilities, and probably through income taxes as well.

In the real world, a world of expanding human population and demand for food, the proposal to require drastic reductions in agricultural production for imaginary benefits to fish would not be taken seriously.  In the world of salmon planning, the proposal is likely soon to be elevated to formal status within "Alternative #2" under consideration by the Columbia Basin Forum and Northwest Power Planning Council, the entities the Northwest Governors expect to provide leadership in salmon recovery. 

Feds Throw Out Existing Computer Models in Favor of Misleading Simplicity

At the same meeting, a representative of NMFS revealed that the Federal agencies now intend to dumb down existing computer models of salmon survival through the Columbia River in favor a SIMPASS (Simple Passage) model.  NMFS previously employed this model, which lacked any mechanism for adverse effects of gas bubble disease on salmon, to justify a program of increasing spills and total dissolved gas. 

Rather than crafting the model to match physical reality, NMFS is trying, according to the representative, to "make SIMPASS fit with the PATH [results]".  This, he suggested, was akin to "taking an average between FLUSH and CRiSP" (the State/Tribal and BPA/University of Washington salmon passage models).  Back in 1995, the last time that economic interests paid much attention to computer modeling, NMFS concluded that the CRiSP model fit real world data better than FLUSH; now NMFS refuses to decide which model is right, and simply averages reasonably good science with junk science.  (Information concerning the defects of PATH modeling may be found in Other Salmon Materials on this website.) 

The Common Thread/Threat

Examples of Pacific Northwest planning processes that are out of control are legion.  An alphabet soup of entities holds meeting after meeting with essentially no management guidance.  It is almost as if the process has become an end it itself, where each agency pursues its own agenda, and then meets with other agencies to "coordinate".  With no leadership or decision makers in attendence, there are no "good" numbers or "bad" numbers, only "one person's" numbers or "another person's" numbers.  Rather than figure out who is right, and who is wrong, we simply average the opinions of all those present--few if any of whom come from anywhere east of the Cascades and represent the people who will actually suffer from bad decisions. 

The scary thing is that it's not just the salmon.  As William Safire remarked in his column today, "Blamelessness is next to godliness; nobody in authority is held responsible for blunders, no matter how costly."  

James Buchal, July 26, 1999

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