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Oregon Salmon - Media Pushes To Save Our Sacred Salmon, Shaft Our Farmers And Ranchers
By Dennis M. Becklin Publisher / Oregon News Online April 10, 2006

Klamath Falls, Oregon - Oregon's newspapers are chock full of verbiage espousing the needs of salmon. Klamath River salmon, in particular. Oh, please, please save these endangered, sacred, "filet-mignon", local economy dependent salmon from the ravages of farming, ranching, logging, erosion, habitat degradation, power generation, global warming. etc. etc..

The latest examples of journalistic excess concerning the condition of the Klamath River salmon come in the form of editorials and editorialized headlines and statements in articles throughout Oregon's major newsrags. For example:


The Portland Oregonian's headline writing staff had a field day with this piece of journalism published on April 2, 2006. The headline and opening paragraph for this piece should have automatically forced it into the editorial page of that newspaper.



The Oregonian, Sunday April 2, 2006

By: Peter Sleeth

A salmon's cradle, now a grave

Klamath - The next misfortune flowing from a failing river system may be a Pacific Ocean fishery closure


"The Klamath is a river of arguments. Insulted since European settlers arrived in the 19th century, it is riven by competing needs from dams to farmers to fishermen -- and almost entirely broken as a natural river system...."


The Media Is Complicit In Spreading Misleading Information About Klamath River Fish - The Oregonian has no compunctions about exploiting the English language to overstate the condition of Klamath River salmon or the condition of the river ecosystem itself. Every salmon spawning river in the world is a grave for returning adult fish, because they all die when they return to spawn. The Klamath River is no exception. But that's not what Sleeth's headline said. It said that the Klamath River is NOW a grave for salmon, a cute little twist of the language used to emphasize the apparent opinion of the newspaper that the Klamath River is "almost entirely broken as a natural river system".


That is baloney.


Klamath River Salmon Habitat Virtually Unchanged - The Klamath River isn't any more of a threat to salmon and steelhead than it has been since 1918, because the Klamath River hasn't seen any substantial changes in salmon or steelhead spawning habitat since the Copco 1 Dam was constructed in 1918. Copco 1 was constructed without fish ladders and totally blocked migration of salmon and steelhead at a point 196 river miles upstream from the Pacific Ocean. But, the Klamath River and its fish hatcheries have provided untold tonnage of salmon for commercial fishermen, sport fishermen and native Americans since Copco 1 was built.


Contrary to assertions made by hyperventilating environmentalists and their media allies, the Klamath River hasn't suddenly become a "grave" for salmon. This river has maintained virtually the same number of miles of habitat for salmon and steelhead spawning and rearing since 1918.


Copco 1 Dam is now owned by Pacific Power and Light (PP&L). In 1962, Iron Gate Dam was completed at a location 7-miles downstream from Copco 1, and Iron Gate Lake nearly stretches to the base of the Copco 2 Dams. Iron Gate Dam helps to re-regulate the flow of water coming from the turbine generators at Copco 1 and 2. Re-regulation of water flow is beneficial to salmon and steelhead because it minimizes river flow surges and tends to level the rate of flow of the river downstream to the Pacific Ocean. The lake also assists in minimizing the adverse impacts of high temperature, algae laden water flowing from Upper Klamath Lake.


The Great Salmon Die-Off of 2002 - It's now history that in 2002 there was a major hot-water caused die-off of adult fall Chinook salmon that were returning to spawn in the Klamath River or return to the fish hatchery from which they originated. This die-off was followed in 2003 by a major kill-off of yearling salmon in the hatchery caused by an accidental stoppage in the flow of water to the fish rearing ponds. The killed juvenile salmon were the offspring of 2002 adult salmon survivors of the hot-water event. These juvenile salmon were rearing at the Fall Creek Fish Hatchery, which has populated the Klamath River with millions of juvenile salmon and steelhead since its construction.


Commercial Fishermen Pointing Fingers - Fast forward - Now that the 2006 commercial fishing season for coastal salmon has been severely restricted, the commercial fishermen are working hard to point the finger of blame at the farmers and ranchers in the upper Klamath basin. This is typical conduct for commercial fishermen who have a recent history of blaming just about everyone but themselves for the pathetic plight of their industry. Their mouthpiece, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, a fancy moniker for just another environmental activist organization, has a history of suing just about everyone imaginable to advance the interests of commercial fishing over just about every other sector of western states' economies.


Commercial Fishermen Shoot Themselves In The Foot - However, the PCFFA isn't spending much time expounding on the rape of coastal groundfish by fleets of bottom-scraping trawlers and the resulting limitations on the groundfish harvest in recent years. It's not spending much time talking about commercial fishing's adverse impact on many ocean species resulting from millions of tons of incidentally taken fish (by-catch) by miles-long drift nets employed by commercial fishermen. It's not spending much time talking about the monstrous history of excessive commercial fishing that inundated numerous coastal canneries with unlimited bounties of salmon caught in the early days. It's not spending any time, either, talking about the loss of its markets to foreign fish farmers who now satisfy the salmon appetites of most American fish lovers with high quality, low cost salmon fillets. And, it's not talking much about the massive wildlife losses and ecosystem destruction in the Klamath Basin that were caused by the arbitrary shut-off of water to farmers and ranchers in 2002.


No. Like many environmentalist organizations which are focused on the salmon crisis of 2006, the PCFFA and their media allies would rather point the finger of blame at Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers and at the Bush Administration.


Weather Affects Salmon Survival - But the enviros can't alter the fact that variability in the populations of Klamath River salmon and steelhead is primarily caused by weather induced high water temperature in the Upper Klamath watershed. Idiotic diversions of cold water from the Trinity River to grape growers in California instead of the lower Klamath River, excessive commercial fishing and the stupidity of fish hatchery management are major contributory factors to salmon losses. These can be effectively managed for the benefit of the fish, but generally aren't.


Weather induced water shortages and solar heated water temperature increases complicate fisheries management. For example, Klamath Lake is a huge solar collector covering 61,543 acres. At an average depth under 20-feet, the lake blooms to a dense green algae color every summer as its temperature rises. Anyone who has set foot along the lake's shorelines knows that Klamath Lake is a huge peat bog, with eons of annual algae crops settling to the lake bottom as water temperatures cool in the late fall.


Upper Klamath Lake Is Hot - Upper Klamath Lake is the worst imaginable source of cold water for salmon in the Klamath River. Water in the lake is hot during the hottest months of the year...duh. These are the same months of the year that fall Chinook are entering the river to spawn in water that gets heated along 180-miles of sun-soaked canyons from Iron Gate Dam downstream to the Pacific Ocean...duh.


What is known to those who give a damn about Klamath River salmon and the rest of the Klamath Basin ecosystem is that water diverted to farmers and ranchers doesn't simply go away....another "duh" for those who believe the enviro's mantra that irrigation diversions cause water molecules to disappear forever. Significant portions of irrigation water used for fields and crops in the Klamath Basin return to the river at lower temperatures than the water flowing into irrigation systems from Upper Klamath Lake.


Large portions of the public and the media seem to be stupid enough to go for the asinine enviro thesis that more water should be restricted from irrigation use and instead be stored in Klamath Lake for river flows. If you're in that category, you need to be more selective about the environmental propaganda you're reading and you probably need to stop sending cash to those organizations that are hyping this baloney.


Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers need water. Fish need water. California's grape growers need water. In some years, there's not enough to go around. And, some law of probabilities is surely able to prove that occasionally a dry year will also be a hot year. Couple those two conditions with a major hatchery management screw-up and you've got fish die-offs and reduced fishing opportunity in subsequent years...also a "duh".


Irresponsible Environmental Activism - Rabid environmentalists have been attacking dams, resource based industries and agriculture for over twenty years. Fish is the current chapter in their assault on man's use of the land. The previous chapter successfully decimated the northwest timber industry as lawyers-turned-environmental stewards laid waste to massive tracts of the environment in the name of spotted owl protectionism.


One of my favorite examples of "environmental stewardship" run amuck is Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River in southern Oregon. This dam was hyped by enviros and their media allies as "the biggest fish killer on the Rogue River", despite the fact that scientifically conducted studies during 1998-2000 proved that the dam causes virtually no adverse impact to migrating adult or juvenile salmon and steelhead. Despite the findings, radial enviros and their allies successfully labeled Savage Rapids Dam as a fish killer.


After years of litigation in US Federal Court, the dam is now slated for removal at a cost of up to $50-million, there could be horrendous damage to the Rogue River ecosystem as hundreds-of-thousands of tons of sediment flow downstream following demolition of the dam, and the new electrically operated pumps will be supplied with electricity from coal burning generating plants in Wyoming...a pollution causing replacement for an efficient hydro-turbine pumping system that has consumed no electricity since the dam was completed in 1922. You figure the benefit to the Rogue River....


Klamath River Salmon Will Recover - Despite the shrill words of environmentalists and their media allies, the Klamath River's salmon and steelhead will recover from the Great 2002 Salmon Die-Off. There is zero chance that the Klamath River's fish will become extinct because salmon have been cross-migrating in river systems other than their natal streams since time immemorial. Long-term weather patterns such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation Cycle http://www.iphc.washington.edu/Staff/hare/html/pdo/pdopress.html  and other long-term weather patterns will cause variations in rainfall in the Klamath River watershed and variations in the temperature of the river. The effects of weather patterns will be the primary cause of salmon population variations in the future, as they have been in the past.


Self-interest, "sky-is-falling" voices need to be shunned in the future debate about caring for the Klamath River, its fish and its water users.


The shrill voices of media outlets that hype the language of species recovery are doing all Americans a major disservice. They, too, should be shunned.


Dennis M. Becklin, Publisher






Contact info: Dennis M. Becklin may be reached at dennis@SouthernOregonNews.com.




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