The Snake in those days was free flowing. That first summer as my new friends and I were hanging out at the beach in Clarkston, I got my first lesson on the Snake. "It's dangerous as hell," said Kris. "If you don't know what you are doing or are drunk and amazingly stupid, you'll drown. And, they will find your sorry ass in Pasco."
"It doesn't look so scary," sez I. "It's not even very wide."
"Keep thinking that. Oh, and by the way ~ see you in Pasco!"
That was in 1963. What I didn't tumble to until much, much later was that my father had been hired to be the new manager of the Port of Clarkston. 'Course there wasn't much of a port then. Oh, sure, barges came and went from the Potlatch Mill in Lewiston but pretty much it was not much of a "port".
All that changed with the construction of the three Lower Snake River dams. The Army Corp of Engineers built the dams, bought up the houses along the river, bulldozed them down, reworked the shore and the mighty Snake went to slack water. Sure it was wider; sure the beaches were nicer; sure the running path along the dike was kindah nice but, where was the Snake? And, as the years went by, where were the steelhead and wild salmon?
Fast forward to 2005: I was in the Valley to take care of my dad during the last years of his life. One nice day, I took him to the last straight razor barbershop in the Pacific Northwest! It was a small, old shop with a row of straight backed chairs along the wall opposite the barber chairs and stacks of old issues of Guns and Ammo haphazardly tossed in the corner. Sitting in those chairs were half a dozen 1000 year old lentil farmers. And, as things are wont to do, the talk turned to politics and the Valley. Having lived in the Valley for nearly 50 years, I knew this was my cue to shut-the-hell-up!
And, I did. And, then! As I was dozing while listening to the mummer of voices, one of those 1000 year old lentil farmers said, "There wouldn't be a single steelhead in the Snake if it hadn't been for the Boldt Decision." I sat bolt upright.
Whaaaaaaaaaaat? Weren't these the same guys who fought tooth and claw for the dams and vilified any caution expressed by environmentalists. This was staggering. What happened? How was this possible?
I'll tell you what happened. These self same men witnessed the change in the river. They had lived to see that the change signaled the loss of a life they thought would last forever. For generations from father to son and now grandfather to grandson, these men had marked the seasons to the returning steelhead and wild salmon. The construction of the Lower Snake River dams doomed a way of life. These men watched as fewer and fewer fish traveled the Snake to spawning grounds 1000 miles from the sea. They finally saw the results of barriers to the health of the river and the returning fish. Were the dams worth it? Was there no value in a free flowing river teeming with fish?
Then, Saturday, I received an email from my friends at WildSalmon.org. The Lewiston Morning Tribune is conducting a poll to ask residents if they would support removal of the Lower Snake River dams.
Go to the WildSalmon.org website, read the article and vote if you care about Wild Salmon!
Lewiston Morning Tribune Poll Landing page
The gist of the article? As Jim Waddell said, “Being a program manager in the corps of engineers for a couple of decades, you know when something is not right. You can’t always come up with the right numbers. You just have to say, ‘This sucks, I don’t buy it.’ I had no recourse, I just said, ‘It’s not convincing economics and it’s not convincing biology.’ I said, ‘I recommend we continue with breach planning and prepare to do it.’ ”
Wild Salmon might not be well represented in Congress, but we, as citizens, have an obligation to speak our minds; to speak up for Wild Salmon and everything they represent.