The Last Salmon Ceremony Ed Chaney November 30, 2022
Art by Mike Flinn
All quiet on the Pacific Northwest salmon front. Tomorrow, December 1, the Biden Administration reportedly will release a statement on the federal strategy for dealing with the disaster that has cost the Northwest region and nation billions of wasted dollars, caused billions more in damage, destroyed small businesses and thousands of jobs, and threatens extinction of Snake River salmon and Southern Resident Orca. People throughout the region breathlessly await this latest installment in the four decade- long betrayal of the public trust that has wreaked economic, ecological and social havoc nearly 1,000 miles inland and many thousands of miles along the Pacific coast. The root of the problem is four Army Corps of Engineers pork barrel dams on the lower Snake River in southeastern Washington. The Corps was warned for decades the proposed dams threatened extinction of Snake River salmon produced in vast pristine headwaters of the Snake River Basin. Warnings ignored; dams built 1960-75; predicted disaster happened.
Congress reacted with uncharacteristic swiftness. The Northwest Power Act of 1980 created
what is now called the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. The states of Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Washington were given one year to devise a plan— using existing information—to restore Snake River salmon while maintaining an economical and reliable regional energy supply.
The Bonneville Power Administration political hegemon quickly corrupted the Council, notably excepting its Oregon members. Together Bonneville and its politically powerful customers captured regional, state and congressional elected officials—then other federal agencies, notably the Northwest offices of the Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA Fisheries.
All their time in office, Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Washington Governor Inslee, provided cover for the salmon/orca-killing Bonneville Hegemon and its shills and enablers. They were politically humiliated when ultra- conservative Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson proposed to breach the costly, destructive federal Snake River dams in their state, and keep all stakeholders whole— and then some.
Cantwell quickly sought political refuge and salmon cred by creating the diversion of fixing salmon-blocking culverts and sprinkling federal tax dollars on her constituents. Murray and Inslee went her one better and dazzled credulous salmon and orca advocates with Barnum and Bailey-like “collaborative efforts” and sweet talk about Snake River salmon and SR Orca and—wait for it—the need for a “comprehensive plan” to fix everything before doing anything about breaching the Snake River dams.
That doesn’t sound like Murray/Cantwell/Inslee had a road-to-Damascus revelation and are now prepared to pull the political rug out from under the Bonneville Hegemon. It sounds like a variant on the same tune that drove Snake River salmon and SR Orca to the cusp of extinction gussied up with the rouge of considering breaching and the mascara of someday, maybe.
Does President Biden have the spine to buck corrupt Murray/Cantwell/Inslee and the rest of the spineless Northwest congressional delegation? Do his duty? Do the right thing?
Stop the madness?
After 40 years, will pigs fly? Will wishes become fishes? Stay tuned.