News from the Front #83:

The Great Summer Spill Hoax 

On Friday, June 10, 2005, United States District Judge James Redden declared that the DAM operators (he has taken to capitalizing the term) must turn off the smolt transportation system that has assisted Columbia and Snake River salmon for thirty years.  He ordered the DAM operators to spill juvenile fish back into the River during July and August, probably a death sentence for most of those fish.  This decision is widely hailed by the ignorant, including all newspapermen, as being "for the fish".  

The Judge reached this remarkable decision by a methodology now common in federal court environmental cases.  The salmon advocates file written testimony riddled with outright lies and distortions.  All normal processes of litigation are denied.  Here, the Judge denied permission to question the witnesses proffered by the salmon advocates.  The Judge denied permission to summon them to testify in Court.   There was no trial, just a oral argument with no witnesses.  The argument time was so severely limited that there was no hope of explaining the complicated issues to the Judge.  All that parties opposing the salmon advocates can do is file their own written testimony, and hope that the Judge will read it.

The salmon advocates claimed that their summer spill plan would save fish.  According to the federal scientists, the advocates' plan would kill fish.  Indeed, the federal scientists testified that the salmon advocates typed the wrong input parameters into the federal scientists' computer models to reach the "save fish" conclusions.  The only real case the salmon advocates could make is that the scientific evidence on spill and transportation was not definitive.

The Judge's opinion makes no reference to the complicated and disputed scientific issues.  The Judge reduced the whole question of whether smolt transportation is better or worse than in-river migration to two sentences:  "This restriction (no spill at smolt collector projects) would not preserve even a semblance of the spread-the-risk considerations NOAA contends govern the spring migration program. It would not allow a meaningful evaluation of the summer transportation program."  (Emphasis added.)

NOAA had decided that in the spring months, when water temperatures are cooler, the Corps of Engineers should "spread the risk" by allowing some spill to remove fish from the transport program.  In the summer however, when hotter conditions reduce fish survival, NOAA had decided to maximize transportation and minimize spill.  This strategy was associated with striking run increases in recent years for these summer-migrating fish:

The Snake River fall chinook population has even recently exceeded the draft recovery goals (the horizontal line).  But the Judge is immune to progress, having declared last month that "it is apparent that the listed species are in serious decline and not evidencing signs of recovery".  

As to "meaningful evaluation of the summer transportation program", the fish advocates had shut down any such evaluation for over a decade until this year, when the Corps of Engineers finally decided to do the study without their consent.  The Judge, by sharply reducing the number of fish transported, has sharply reduced the reliability of the study.

Any elementary school bully receives more due process of law than those seeking to defend the DAMS from the lies of the salmon advocates.  But we are now in a different era of "law":  the law of the salmon commissars.  Lenin famously remarked that if you want to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.  The salmon commissars, his close kin, will kill fish without hesitation in their larger quest to destroy the DAMS.  

Dr. Don Chapman, a pre-eminent Northwest fishery scientist, who twice won the American Fishery Society's annual award for the most significant scientific paper of the year, declared a few years ago that “to deliberately send smolts through a system to make a political point in support of dam breaching is, at worst, irresponsible, hypocritical, and criminal".  That is precisely what Judge Redden has done, even as he disparages the influence of other politicians on salmon recovery.

© James Buchal, June 12, 2005

You have permission to reprint this article, and are encouraged to do so. The sooner people figure out what's going on, the quicker we'll have more fish in the rivers.

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