Jerry: I can’t believe summer is almost over.
Carrie: What did you enjoy most this summer?
Jerry: For me, it was our week-long float trip last month down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. It was run by the American River Tour Association.
Carrie: It was magical. The river trip really taught me about the plight of the Idaho salmon.
Jerry: You mean the Association’s story, “World’s Greatest Moms?”
Carrie: A young river guide read us the story about a female salmon who is hatched in the Middle Fork watershed. She must rely on the current to reach the ocean.
Jerry: Unfortunately, half of the salmon don’t make it through the lower Snake River dams. The river current is lost in the warm, motionless water created by the dam reservoirs. The salmon lose their bearings and die.
Carrie: But our hardy little salmon survives. She gets through the dams on the Columbia and swims into the Pacific.
Jerry: After four years, she begins a difficult return journey through eight dams to reach the Salmon River. She travels upstream 900 miles to return to her home.
Carrie: This includes navigating serious rapids. We experienced several of them on our trip.
Jerry: She finishes her journey laying eggs in shallow gravel areas called “redds.” Then she perishes and return her nutrients back to nature.
Carrie: But we didn’t see any redds on our float.
Jerry: That’s because few salmon make it back. She has done what less than one-half of one percent of salmon born there ever do.
Carrie: I read only 4,100 chinook returned last year compared to 21,000 two years ago. It’s worse for Sockeye. Only 157 sockeye made it back to Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley.
Jerry: That’s disgraceful. In the 1930’s, when my dad visited Redfish Lake, he said you could almost walk across the lake on the backs of the sockeye. That’s how the lake got its name.
Carrie: Sounds like they’re almost extinct. How can we save them?
Jerry: The most important step is removing the four lower Snake River dams in Washington. They were built in the 60’s and 70’s which is when the salmon runs really plummeted.
Carrie: That doesn’t sound easy. Don’t the dams produce lots of electricity?
Jerry: They currently produce only 4% of the Northwest’s electricity. Indeed, Bonneville Power Administration which operates the dams, is losing money on the sale of that power. The expansion of renewable energy sources and natural gas are reducing demand.
Carrie: OK. But aren’t the dams needed for barges to navigate the Snake River into Lewiston, Idaho?
Jerry: Over the past twenty years, shipping on the lower Snake has dropped almost 70 percent. Did you know that every single barge costs us taxpayers almost $35,000 in federal subsidies?
Carrie: There’s gotta be a cheaper way to do that.
Jerry: There is excellent rail service along the Snake River which would cost taxpayers far less.
Carrie: Hmmm… Sounds like we citizens need to speak up.
Jerry: The federal government has spent billions of dollars on five different plans to protect salmon. None have worked. The good news is that the latest federal “fish accord” plan expires on Sept. 30.
Carrie: So now is the time to contact Governor Otter and tell him NOT to renew the federal fish accord. Email email@example.com or call 208-334-2100.
Carrie: If Idaho salmon become extinct, we’ll have lost a miracle of nature. And extinction is forever.
Jerry: Sadly, it will give a whole new meaning to “River of No Return.”