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Argument to retain dams doesn't hold water

Guest commentary by Ron Crete, Herald and News 11/26/17


Dennis Linthicum’s “letter” has exhausted me. I don’t understand the point of the letter, overall.

I do understand the need to comment to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on dam decommissioning on the Klamath River. Yet, why is he pushing backwards toward a past we can only learn from, not reproduce?

Is it so hard to understand that; in today’s world, in these changing times, our curious and playful minds are capable of guiding our cultural decisions toward a more sustainable future then was ever thought about back when some believed America was great.

Was America great in those decades when we installed about 8,100 dams on American river systems each holding back 5,000 acre-feet or more of water while blocking the migration and future sustainability of countless species that evolved in free-flowing rivers?

Dam support difficult to prove

His judgmental letter suggests there is broad support for retaining the four dams on the Klamath River. In so doing he re-instigates the regional confusion and encourages continued political conflict rather than inspiring cooperative discussions for a future that includes investing further in the sustainable recovery or riverine natural resources like salmon.

I agree that while removing the dams we have to wisely and carefully contend with the toxic silt-load accumulation that will be released into the Klamath system. The removal of the Mill Town Dam at the confluence of the Big Blackfoot River and the Clark Fork of the Columbia River in Montana and the Elwha River Dams in Washington State are exemplary. These river systems are reported to be recovering ecologically today.

Why pick on sea mammals and the legislation deemed necessary to provide for their role in the ocean food web? If some numbers of sea mammals are no longer convenient because they can’t change their fish-eating nature, then let’s adjust regulations to manage them sustainably and appropriately.

Also, our fishing fleets are not innocent of scraping the bottom of the ocean for seafood protein just as whimsically as those “foreign vessels” blamed for salmon declines. Why can’t we budget for the enforcement needed to manage the 200-mile limits we claim as closed to foreign fishing fleets?

I don’t understand the statement that “dams are not the problem.” They damn well are a problem for fish to navigate and for seasonally needed cold water flushes of parasites adversely affecting returning salmon when river flows are too low to retain cooler water temperatures salmon require.

Are we not documenting the continued decline toward extinction of most salmon species in the Pacific Northwest? If we indigenous and immigrant North Westerners are not the people of the salmon, who are we?

Adjusting toward wind energy

Why the continued denial of the current transition toward a future geothermal, wind and solar energy age?

PacifiCorp seems to have made the adjustment as they erect solar panel and windmill “farms” replacing the modest, yet un-sustainable megawatts of electricity produced by the Klamath dams.

Does the future hold more jobs in the alternative energy field or in maintaining outdated dams and the silt-loaded reservoirs behind them?

Previous and current families in the Klamath Basin have benefited from dam technology. Still, the impacts of that technology, not anticipated at the time the dams were installed, now warrant making more sustainable riverine system choices.

Doing what’s right

The world and our place in it is ever changing. All the sacred texts of the wise prophets that wandered and wondered before us have pointed to Man’s responsibility to care for the gifts of the Earth.

Let the four Klamath River dams be decommissioned. It’s time to prepare for a sustainable future using our minds and hearts to restore and wisely use all the natural and cultural wonders we have been gifted in the Klamath Basin.

The problem with managing our future in a system like the Klamath River Basin, Mr. Linthicum, isn’t pointing out what is “wrong”, it’s doing what is right.



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