Salmon Editorial Needed Space to Travel

By Dickie, Lance W. | The Masthead, Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

Salmon Editorial Needed Space to Travel


Dickie, Lance W., The Masthead


"Save the columbia salmon" was encouraged by The Seattle Times editorial page editor Mindy Cameron as a way to rethink the editorial format and take on a pressing Pacific Northwest issue.

Times editorial writers have opined for generations about the political, economic, environmental, and cultural aspects of salmon. We love salmon in the Northwest, preferably grilled. Our project came at a time of growing realization that the government had spent $3 billion to save wild salmon runs with scant results.

Everyone had ideas, lots of competing studies had been written, and others were in the works. "Save the Columbia Salmon" tried to lay out the overall picture and present a series of recommendations, most of which pleased no one.

Environmental groups want dams removed, especially four dams on the Snake River, which feeds into the Columbia River. Taking out dams is a popular position. Our editorial was skeptical of the benefits, and believed that complex economic and political relationships made it an impossible goal. Why waste the time? We thought there were more productive battles to fight.

What the Times recommended, among other things, was dropping the water level behind one major Columbia River dam to enhance fish habitat along an 80-mile stretch of river. This promises the best results for salmon recovery. Agribusiness, barge, and hydropower interests oppose this approach.

Ross Anderson and I were not interested in facile condemnation of the dams that changed the face of the Pacific Northwest. The equation for fish survival and decline was much too complicated, and it involved failures to build dams as designed, farming and logging practices, climate, ocean conditions, harvest, predators, hatcheries, and all the usual indignities suffered by nature at the hands of a growing population. …

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