Before the Corps of Discovery, the rivers ran free. Salmon were plentiful. No cities, highways, farms, ranches, commerce, just unproductive sagebrush steppes, forests and nothing along the river as the spring runoff flooded and washed everything away.
Today all the above exist, but the rivers are now controlled from flooding, and the salmon have all but disappeared. Salmon loss can be attributed to dams, but in 2016 even the free-flowing rivers on the West Coast — for example, in British Columbia, the Fraser and Skeena — are being closed to salmon fishing for lack of salmon.
Organizations making money off salmon recovery have not solved the $1 billion (plus or minus) a year. There is a natural solution to allow salmon access to all historic ranges. Recreate the rivers through and around the dams. A canal-like structure with continuous flowing water with removable gillnets at reentry to the river for predatory fish eating the smolts.
This could be accomplished on the four lower dams with one year of present remediation, and the same flow of water needed could be utilized to circumvent every dam on the Columbia and Snake rivers, ending the blockage. Idaho’s allocation for spillage alone for salmon recovery is enough water for the entire Columbia watershed.
It would end the $1 billion yearly largess of conservationists, but it won’t return the historical runs — that problem is in the ocean. It will protect the livelihoods of agriculture, barging, recreation, sport fishing and provide flood prevention.
RONALD M. HARRIMAN