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September 13, 1999
In the interest of our nation's overburdened taxpayers, I feel compelled to respond to a recent press release from the Corps of Engineers. In this press release it was revealed that the taxpayer funded Corps is pumping $20 million into a study to determine whether or not breaching the Snake River Dams will help save our endangered salmon.
"Fat and happy" Corps managers don't seem to understand that there is a huge body of free historical information readily available and directly applicable to this very topic. And since our "20 million dollar researchers" don't seem to be able to find it, let me touch on some of the high points.
Our Columbia and Snake river salmon runs have been exploited by non-tribal commercial fishing operations since the mid-1800's. Though there was concern about the "health" of the runs as early as the 1880's, commercial catch trended upward until the decade of 1910 to 1920. Commercial catch has been trending downward ever since.
What this little bit of information tells us is that commercial catch totals peaked 2 to 3 decades before the first dam (Bonneville) was completed on the Columbia River.
Since the 1920's, some of the best runs on record were in 1985 and 1986. . . about 10 years after the last Snake River Dam went into operation.
Around the globe, virtually every major fishery is in decline and in every case this decline is attributable to "commercial over-harvest." In every case where smaller, localized fisheries have recovered and flourished (i.e. redfish in the Gulf of Mexico), that recovery has been directly attributable to the limiting or outright banning of commercial fishing.
There is a lot more of this kind of information out there. It's in libraries. It's on the Internet. And it's free.
Anyway, all you folks who are cashing in on the $20 million from the Corps, please give it back. We taxpayers need it. Because, even though we spend our money much more wisely than the Corps, we still have a lot of bills to pay.
By TIM KLEIN