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Show us the science
By Stanley Krute, Siskiyou Daily News July 12, 2010
Dear Editor,

For folks like me who think there's no good science that points to dam removal as the most efficacious way to help salmon populations in the Klamath: that is THE most vulnerable element in the position of those who want to remove the dams.

Representatives of California Fish & Game and the feds were on the radio Tuesday morning (Jefferson Exchange on KSOR). They mentioned in their opening remarks that, now that their agreement to move ahead towards dam removal is in place, one of the things they need to do are some studies to see exactly how such removal will impact salmon populations.

I was the first caller to get on the air to ask a question. I asked if they felt it was a bit strange to make the decision on dam removal before doing the science.

Their response was a tap-dancing, hand-waving, smoke-blowing bit of evasive generalities.

That non-response confirmed to me that they know they have no specific science for this specific situation. If you've ever been a cop or a school teacher or a lawyer or a judge or a parent of a teenager, you can sniff quite clearly when evasive generalities are being used to mask something someone wants to hide.

Two essential chunks of science are needed in order to make an intelligent decision in this matter :

[1] Studies as to how removal of the dams will affect fish, bird and animal populations. And these can't be artificially narrow studies. They must be broad studies that look at a broad range of removal effects.

[2] Studies that look at the impacts of all the things that we do know negatively impact salmon populations.

Three that come immediately to mind.

[a] The shore-to-shore gill-netting that goes on downriver at the height of the runs upriver, for which there are currently no publicly available numbers nor controls

[b] The salmon take by factory ships out in the ocean

[c] Salmon hatchery mismanagement and artificial spawning limitations

If we think that salmon populations are declining by X percentage a year, what percentage of X stems from each of those population-thinning elements, and what percentage comes from the existence of the dams? THAT is the big question the science must answer.

Our greatest strategic opening is hitting on the science issue. The law is quite clear that such decisions must be based on sound science. The more the dam removal folks avoid doing thorough, wide-ranging science, because they fear that the results won't fit their desired outcome and/or will step on too many sacred cows, the weaker their case becomes.

Within the decision-making system that is grinding away towards dam removal, science actually still matters. Especially if enough people point out that the emperor is stark buck naked.

Show us the science.

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