Letter to the Editor
The only real river is a free-flowing river
October 19, 2023 | View PDF
I had to pinch myself when I stumbled across the opinion piece in the McKenzie River Reflections written by Rusty Bentz. I know Rusty and to hear him advocate for the four lower Snake River dams blew my mind. He and his brother made their living to a large extent on having access to a free-flowing river to run their boats through the rapids and take rubes fishing for steelhead. (The salmon had long since been destroyed by the dams).
Rusty delved into several ideas as to how one could manage to get a few of the Frankin fish back upstream so they would have something to catch....but here are the facts by every known scientist on the matter:
The Snake River basin’s native salmon and steelhead hover on the brink of extinction. Today, only 1-2% of historic wild salmon and steelhead return to spawn above the four lower Snake River dams. Climate change will only continue to worsen these already abysmal percentages. Massive algae blooms in years past as well as this summer in the lower Snake River have prompted the state to issue warnings to not even touch the water. What is wildlife to do? And the fish?
I would say to Rusty that if he has no problem with these river-killing dams then he should have no problem with damming up his beloved Salmon River and inundating his cabin that sits on the banks of it. Or the Clearwater River and its main forks, the Lochsa and Selway rivers. Also, the Northfork of the Clearwater River, oops, they already destroyed that beautiful river with Dworshak Dam forever destroying one of the largest strains of steelhead in the world. We need to start embracing the fact that these impediments to a free-flowing river are major problems to our environment even beyond fish. Everything is connected and when we destroy one, we set the cast in place for the others to fail.
Hopefully, we can realize that the only real river is a free-flowing river. I think deep down we all know this. We need to rise to the challenge of returning the Snake to as near as we found it as possible instead of shrinking from it and continuing on a path that ultimately will lead to ruin. We can either choose to do the right thing for nature and us or paddle around in the muck and mire that is becoming the Snake River.
St. Maries, ID