A federal decision that will decimate Northwest salmon runs and send ocean-going orcas into oblivion by starving them of their main food source is a ringing call for Americans to reset our values.
In a wild twist, the government and dam-breaching opponents argue that removing four dams on the Lower Snake River to save salmon would accelerate climate change. The logic: Dam removal would require the use of more carbon-belching coal-fired power plants to balance a shift to less reliable non-polluting sources of power like wind and solar. Carbon traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere.
Although climate change also threatens salmon and orcas, they are now humans’ arch foes if we are to believe the federal government.
Thus, the government signed off on a decision last week that will execute the Northwest’s remaining salmon and orcas by preventing removal of the four dams.
The dams block salmon migration to and from the ocean. Most die on the way or on the return trip to freshwater spawning grounds. In 2000, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that breaching the dams is the best way to recover and sustain salmon.
Last week’s decision is part of the final environmental impact statement issued last week by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration. Federal courts have rejected five previous plans from the same agencies and ruled that they would not protect salmon.
The federal agencies view salmon and orcas as perpetrators of the unpardonable crime of getting in the way of crop irrigation, barging on the inland waterway and cheap electric power. They measure the economic value of those activities, and the value of salmon for food and sport fishing cannot compete.
The very fact that Northwest salmon and orcas will disappear because of human activities means something is out of whack with American values.
The absurd characterization of large fish and ocean-going mammals as Public Enemies Number One and Two should signal that it’s time to regroup and rethink where we Americans are taking the planet.