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NFC: Fw: [Updates] Gov. of Oregon Supports Dam Removal
February 18, 2000
Contact: Justin Hayes (202) 347-7550
GOVERNOR KITZHABER (Oregon) ANNOUNCES SUPPORT OF SNAKE RIVER DAM REMOVAL
Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon today became the first
major political figure to support the removal of four dams on the lower
Snake River to save endangered salmon and steelhead.
In a speech given to the American Fisheries Society in Oregon, Governor
Kitzhaber said that after reviewing the different approaches and
removing the four dams is the best option for the salmon, the people, and
the economy of the Northwest.
"Today, Governor Kitzhaber has provided what Snake River salmon most
desperately need -- political leadership. Now, it's time for the Clinton
Administration and elected officials throughout the region to follow his
example and support removal of the four lower Snake River dams to restore
this magnificent national treasure," said Rob Masonis of American Rivers.
"Congress and the Administration should develop a plan to replace the
benefits provided by the dams - through targeted investments in
transportation, irrigation, and power infrastructures - so we can save
salmon and protect existing jobs and rural communities," said Justin
of American Rivers.
In addition to calling for dam removal, Governor Kitzhaber also stressed
additional need for more habitat restoration, hatchery reform, harvest
practices, and better operation of other dams on the Columbia and Snake
Rivers. He said that there are no easy or cheap solutions to salmon
The text of the Governor's speech follows:
Governor John Kitzhaber
American Fisheries Society Speech
February 18, 2000
Good Afternoon. It's an honor to appear before the American Fisheries
Society which, for years, has provided such distinguished service in the
cause of sustainable fisheries management.
It is also quite fitting that a public official, such as myself, should
appear before a group of scientists in what may be seen as a symbolic
"hand-off" regarding a challenge of great importance to all of us here --
and, indeed, to all of the citizens throughout the Northwest.
That challenge is to restore a healthy ecosystem to the Columbia River
and recover the salmon of the Columbia -- once the greatest runs on the
of the earth.
Like all significant environmental challenges, our response here must be
combination of good science and good public policy.
As to my reference to a "hand-off" is a recognition that you -- as
scientists -- have done your job.
You have provided the science that the region needs to begin to address
Columbia Basin challenge.
That is not to say that the science is perfect, or that we now know all
we will ever need to know, to inform our efforts. But we will never have
perfectly accurate or complete science and we can no longer use that as
excuse for inaction.
There are those who continue to believe that science will give us the
answer. It won't. What science can give us is a range of options, each of
which carries varying degrees of economic and ecological risk. Science
describe the risks inherent in various policy options -- not eliminate
In the end, the answer will be a political one -- informed by good
-- but based on a set of values and on the degree of economic and
risks the region is willing to accept. It is time that we shoulder our
responsibilities and develop a blueprint for action.
To do so, we must engage the citizens of the Northwest. Engage them in
making clear what is at stake in the Columbia and what our goal must be
response to this challenge. Engaging them concerning the alternatives we
have to achieve that goal. Engaging them in describing the trade-offs
inherent in each option. And that will require an unprecedented level of
political leadership and collaboration throughout the region.
Let's start by discussing what is at stake in the Columbia Basin. In a
real sense, the stakes can be summed up in the following questions:
* Will we, as a region, act to save the salmon or let them go extinct?
* Will we, as a region, meet the requirements of the Endangered
Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Northwest Power Act?
* Will we, as a region, meet our sacred obligations -- the treaties
between the people of the United States and the sovereign Indian tribes
To me there is but one answer to these questions -- we must. We must save
our wild salmon; we must strive to meet the standards of our federal
environmental statutes and the Northwest Power Act; we must honor our
obligations to the tribes.
In short, we must restore a healthy, functioning ecosystem to the
Basin. Only then will we have hope of restoring abundant runs of salmon
the clean, cool water that for centuries characterized the Columbia
To me, this is not just about doing what the law requires -- it is about
doing what we know to be right.
A functioning ecosystem -- one that can provide for the needs of both
and animals -- demonstrates our willingness to live our lives in a
sustainable fashion; a willingness to take the legacy we have been handed
and to pass it on the next generation of westerners.
But if our salmon runs are not healthy, then our watersheds are not
And if our watersheds are not healthy, then we are putting at risk our
future and that of our children and grandchildren. A highly degraded
ecosystem -- which is where we are headed today -- represents a decision
mortgage the legacy with which we have been blessed for our own
benefit. I believe that we are better than that.
These environmental laws and treaties -- which seem at once so arcane and
detailed -- constitute the means by which we seek to connect our past,
present, and our future. And at the heart of this debate lies one
that each and every one of us must answer: are we willing to honor that
I believe that we are. I believe that the people of the Northwest are
to meet this challenge -- and our goal must be nothing short of a
functioning ecosystem in the Columbia Basin. We must accept no less.
That brings us to the question of the alternatives available to achieve
goal and the trade-offs that are involved. The recently unveiled
multi-species framework process -- spearheaded by the Northwest Power
Planning Council -- illustrates the choices before us more clearly than
perhaps any other study.
As you know, the framework analyzed a range of seven alternatives that
achieve the goal of ecosystem restoration and salmon recovery. Each
alternative addresses, in varying degrees, the damage to the ecosystem
caused by the so-called "4-H's": the hydroelectric system, harvest
habitat restoration and hatchery practices.
At one end of the range is Alternative One, which essentially returns the
river to a free-flowing natural state. This alternative involves
the four Lower Snake River dams and also breaching McNary Dam and John
Dam on the mainstream. It involves intensive habitat restoration on both
public and private land and the elimination of hatchery production. It
involves the curtailment of all salmon harvest except tribal harvest.
At the other end of the range is Alternative Seven, which essentially
manages the river to maximize economic benefits. This option includes
increased power production, increased irrigation, and increased fishing
under scientific management.
Alternative One offers the least environmental risk in terms of the
ecosystem and salmon restoration, but the greatest human risk in terms of
the economic impact on the region. Alternative Seven, on the other hand,
offers the least human risk, but the greatest environmental risk.
The alternatives between One and Seven fall somewhere along this risk
spectrum with alternatives Three through Five having the greatest balance
between environmental and economic risk.
An examination of the differences between Alternative Three and
Five best illustrates the choices that face us as a region. Both
alternatives yield significantly greater salmon returns than the status
and of approximately the same magnitude. Alternative Three yields 2.8
more salmon than current returns. Alternative Five produces 2.5 times
salmon than current returns. (The range runs from 1.5 times current
in Alternative Seven to 2.5 times in Alternative Two).
Both Alternative Three and Alternative Five amend harvest and hatchery
practices and involve habitat restoration activities. The two differences
between these two alternatives lie in how they address the hydrosystem,
intensity of habitat restoration activities, which I recommended, and the
nature of harvest and hatchery policies.
Let's start with the most controversial difference between Alternative
and Alternative Five -- dam breaching. Alternative Five is a breaching
strategy involving the four Lower Snake River dams. Alternative Five can
characterized as an "everything but breaching strategy".
Dam breaching has acquired a life of its own in the Northwest --
the political debate, the news stories, and the editorials almost to the
exclusion of everything else. It is important, therefore, that we put
issue into context and bring it into perspective.
Dam breaching alone -- while it will certainly help some runs of salmon
will not necessarily restore them. Regardless of whether we reach a
breaching strategy (such as Alternative Three) or a non-breaching
(such as Alternative Five) we must also come to terms with other steps
will be necessary:
The hydroelectric system
All dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers (whether any are breached or
must operate in a way that addresses dissolved gas and temperature
and which comply to the Clean Water Act.
We must increase flows to help fish move down stream.
Where appropriate, we must improve fish passage by using bypass
and turbine screens. And, as turbines are scheduled for replacement, they
must be upgraded with so-called "fish-friendly" turbines.
We must move aggressively to restore degraded habitat. While some
has been made, our ongoing water management and agricultural practices,
urban uses, and timber harvests continue to add sediment and other
pollutants to rivers and streams. This raises water temperature and dries
critical spawning and rearing habitat.
To reverse this will require a coordinated and cooperative effort between
state, federal, and tribal governments and private landowners to develop
implement a comprehensive program with habitat protection and
This must be based both on incentives for action and on enforcement for
existing regulatory framework.
We have come to understand that the historic promise of hatcheries to
replace natural production lost to economic development has been largely
myth. The tools of artificial production must be immediately recast to
this new challenge.
Hatcheries that are used to supplement and restore threatened and
salmon stocks must be operated on a scale, and in a manner, that reflects
the essentially experimental nature of this undertaking.
Further, hatcheries used to augment fishing should, in both mission and
location, move away from mainstream fisheries that impact listed and
weak stocks in favor of terminal fisheries located in the mouth and
tributaries of the Columbia River.
Over the past decades, harvest rates have been steadily decreased to a
where, today, harvest occurs only at a fraction of historic levels.
In fact, for many of the wild salmon stocks -- such as the spring and
Chinook and Sockeye -- no in-river harvest has occurred for over three
Northwest Native Americans have been especially hurt by these reductions.
Salmon fishing for them is more than just an activity or even a way of
-- it is truly spiritual.
Yet, further reductions must be achieved in fall Chinook if we are to
achieve our goal.
Yet, in spite of these recovery strategies (all of which must be
in some degree), the public debate remains stalled on the question of
whether or not to breach the four dams on the Lower Snake River. You
think, given all the focus on this issue, that breaching is the "silver
bullet" that alone could allow us to reach the goal of a functioning
ecosystem and abundant salmon runs.
But you know, and I know, that breaching the Snake River dams alone will
get the job done. Why then all the focus on dam breaching? The answer
in the fact that the breaching debate has become a debate that is more
symbols than about solutions.
On the environmental side, dams are symbols of man's subjugation of the
mighty Columbia River and of the ecological degradation that has flowed
that subjugation. And thus, removal of the dams becomes an end in itself
set apart from the effect on overall salmon recovery or watershed health.
On the other side, dams are symbols of the economic benefits which have
flowed from the taming of the Columbia River. And thus, their removal
threatens the economic interests because it legitimizes a discussion of
environmental cost with which these economic benefits have been
So if removing the four Lower Snake River dams is not a "silver bullet",
should not be an end in itself, what is its importance? The answer lies
within the numerous scientific studies undertaken over the past several
years for the purpose of informing our efforts to recover salmon,
and other fish and wildlife in the Columbia Basin.
While partisans and the press dwell on the differences in these studies,
conclusions and information that are common to virtually all of them are
very significant. This information includes the fact that:
* Any successful effort to recover salmon and restore a functioning
ecosystem must address not only the harm caused by the hydrosystem -- but
also the harm caused by a degraded habitat, unscientific hatchery
and outdated harvest policies.
* Removing the four Lower Snake River dams is, at least for the Snake
River salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act, the single most
beneficial action we can take.
* If we don't remove the four Lower Snake River dams, we will need to
do more and with greater intensity in the areas of hatcheries, habitat
harvest to achieve the ecosystem restoration and salmon recovery we seek.
Again, let me use Alternative Three and Alternative Five to illustrate
point. While Alternative Five does not breach the dams, it does a number
other things which are not contemplated under Alternative Three. For
example, Alternative Five requires intensive habitat restoration efforts
just on public land, but on private land as well.
Furthermore, it requires not just continuing the current moratorium on
issuance of new water rights in the basin -- it contemplates an actual
reduction in existing water rights.
In other words, the tradeoff for maintaining the four Lower Snake River
is an increased responsibility for habitat restoration by private
and a reduction in existing water rights in the region.
Other studies, such as the federal government's "All H" paper, suggests
additional trade-offs. For example, to recover the Snake River Fall
without removing dams would require a 50-75 percent additional reduction
ocean and river harvest from already historic low current levels.
Furthermore, the use of an additional one million acre-feet of water to
augment Spring and Summer flows would probably be necessary.
It is also important to point out that while both alternatives yield
the same number of Chinook -- the philosophy that underpins the means by
which they reach that end are very different.
The philosophy behind Alternative Three is to benefit salmon by
more normative and resilient ecosystem capable of functioning without a
significant amount of human technologic support. It also removes dams to
restore almost 140 miles of free-flowing river for better spawning,
and migration conditions.
Alternative Five goes in the opposite direction -- calling for an
reliance on hatcheries and on sophisticated dam passage technologies in
of a return to a more naturally functioning ecosystem.
The difference is not insignificant because Alternative Three produces
almost two-thirds more natural fish than Alternative Five. The importance
this lies in the fact that one of the purposes of our effort is to
the Endangered Species Act, which determines recovery based on the number
My point is this: if we can move beyond the symbolism of the four Snake
River dams -- and look at the policy trade-offs involved, at the other
choices we must make if we choose to leave them intact -- breaching
as a responsible and cost-effective option.
Some will say that we have not done enough science. I say that we can
play that card as an excuse for inaction and as a justification for
tough choices. But exactly what additional scientific experiment is
necessary to demonstrate that it is easier for salmon to migrate in a
free-flowing river than to negotiate a several hundred foot high concrete
Some will say that it is too expensive. I say, look at the other
alternatives. There are similar -- if not greater -- costs associated
Some will say that it is too controversial. I say, what isn't? Who here
thinks that it is non-controversial to cut harvest levels? To change
agricultural and timber practices on private land to significantly
There is no doubt that we can move ahead with salmon recovery without
breaching the dams. All I am saying to you today is that we have to stop
deluding ourselves into believing that our choices will be easier and
cheaper if we just leave the dams alone.
Our choices won't be easier. They'll be just as tough. Our costs might be
lower, but only on the margin.
The regional challenge here is to develop an ecosystem recovery strategy
that spreads the costs as broadly as possible -- so that no one economic
interest bears a disproportionate burden. And these costs must involve
only the cost of the recovery strategy itself, but also the cost of
mitigation -- to the greatest extent possible -- the economic
whatever they may be: from increased regional power rates to harvest
reductions, to transportation alternatives, to covering the increased
of pumping for irrigation, to the job loss at various ports along the
This does not have to be a zero sum equation. This does not have to be a
win-lose proposition and we must not allow it to be framed in that way.
I am well aware of the economic trade-offs inherent in restoring this
regional ecosystem. The dams and the hydroelectric generating capacity in
the Columbia River Basin have brought huge economic benefits to the
low cost power, irrigated agriculture, jobs, transportation and much
This is not about sacrificing economic benefits for environmental health
it is about working together as a region to have both. It is about
a victory for regionalism over parochialism. To quote Wallace Stegner,
is about outliving our origins" and "building a society to match our
I believe that the best way to accomplish that and to equitably spread
economic burden is to build a recovery strategy that includes breaching
four Lower Snake River dams. I also appreciate that my position on this
issue is, at least at present, a lonely one among the Northwest political
If my colleagues in the region insist that any recovery strategy must
the dams intact, then we must be prepared to intensify our efforts in
* Go the extra mile in habitat restoration on both public and private
* Radically limit harvest in both ocean and river.
* Totally restructure how we operate our hatcheries.
* Change the way we run the entire hydrosystem from Grand Coulee to
I will work with the political leadership in the region in pursuing
path -- but we must choose. . . and act. Because in all of this, delay is
The federal government in particular must both take a position on a
of action and provide a significant contribution of financial resources
towards the recovery strategy.
For twenty years the Bonneville Power Administration has been the primary
funding source for salmon recovery with the dollars coming from the
electricity ratepayers. But ratepayers cannot be reasonably expected to
provide all of the funds needed to achieve the recovery of this ecosystem
and the fish and wildlife that depend on it -- especially when our goals
to protect national resources and to honor national obligations.
Therefore, the federal government must provide substantial additional
for a Columbia River Basin restoration effort. To date we have not seen
level of commitment needed to succeed. For all our hard-fought efforts
year, Oregon received only $9 million from the federal government for
coastal salmon restoration. That won't make it for the basin.
I call on this administration to demonstrate its commitment for Columbia
River ecosystem restoration in the President's fiscal year 2001 budget. I
call on the Northwest Congressional Delegation to take the lead in
that Congress appropriates the dollars needed this year.
It is time to act. We have the federal caucus "All H Paper". We have the
Army Corps of Engineer's Environmental Impact Statement. We have the
Northwest Power Planning Council's multi-species framework process. It is
now time for the region to step up to the plate and make some choices.
To quote Theodore Roosevelt, one of the greatest environmental stewards
serve as President of the United States: "In any moment of decision, the
best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is
Delay is not some benign and prudent placeholder. It is a choice to
the Columbia River ecosystem.
The salmon can't wait. The Independent Scientific Advisory Board --
to advise the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Northwest Power
Planning Council -- has concluded that the risk of extinction (even in
next ten years) is substantial.
The people can't wait. The uncertainty of not knowing when, if ever, the
region will begin a science-based recovery effort, with a clear goal
at the outset -- the uncertainty of not knowing what role the various
stakeholders will play in this effort -- is distracting, and ultimately
destructive to the good will and energy upon which a successful recovery
strategy must depend.
If salmon extinctions occur, it will not be the first time in our history
and probably not the last. But it will be the first time a species has
allowed to become extinct in Oregon and in the Northwest -- in the face
strong evidence of how that fate might be avoided.
My choice is to reject the guiltless complacency that has permitted this
drift toward extinction and to simply do what needs to be done.
I ask you in the Northwest Region to make the same choice. I ask you
this vision I have of a Pacific Northwest that remains ecological,
spiritually, yes, even politically, intact.
Together, we can make it a reality.
Assoc. Dir. of Public Policy
1025 Vermont Ave., NW #720
Washington, DC. 20005
tel: 202-347-7550 ext 3027 / cell: 202-486-4209 / fax: 202-347-9240
jhayes at amrivers_org www.amrivers.org