By Jan Jackson
This letter was sent to the office of Congressman Rob Simpson of Idaho in response to a story in the March 2021 issue of Ruralite Clatskanie PUD called “Congressman Proposes Plan to Breach Lower Snake River Dams” by K.C Meheffey. *
Subject: Salmon in the Columbia River
I have some observations on the fish situation in the Pacific Northwest.
I have lived on the lower Columbia River all of my life (85 years).
I live in the center of Columbia County Oregon and there are no dams downstream from us.
I served 20 years as the chair of the local Watershed Council.
I have seen MILLIONS of dollars spent on fish rehab. Much of the work was a total waste of money.
WE have downstream problems with too many predators (many of which you may have heard about).
One of the problems is too many critters, including us that are eating too many fish.
WE have also done things that makes life easier for the predators.
- We cleaned the water, so it makes fish easier for the predators to find. We have made some of the water too clean to grow very much fish food.
- Took the bounty off of the seals and sea lions and gave them protection.
- Made trapping and sale of animal pelts all most impossible. For years this was a big cash income for many rural families.
- Made great nesting places at the mouth of the Columbia River for fish eating birds.
- Recovered the Eagles.
After mentioning these things at a public meeting, I was told to mind my own business.
It is also evident to me that a fair portion of the people working on the fish problem are in no hurry to fix the problem because they would be looking for work.
A study of history will tell you what happened to the fish and how we got where we are today.
Lewis and Clark did not mention large numbers of fish in 1805/1806, but in in 1900 we had lots of fish. What happened?
The history of the Northwest Territory will tell you what happened.
The first settlers here were fur traders controlled by the British. When the Americans started to settle here, the trappers were told to catch and take all of the fur bearing animals to make the area uninhabitable (no income source). The problem was the Americans were farmers and it made no difference to them.
This was great for the fish. We also gave the local Indians smallpox and replaced them with ourselves as local predators.
The point of this is, if we are not willing to control the predation in the lower Columbia River you will never get more fish.
I am not a very good writer and don’t enjoy doing writing, but I find it necessary.
I am willing to talk in more detail to anybody in person or by phone about this issue.
I have not included a Bio, but I could if it makes any difference to anybody.
K.C. Van Natta
Lead photo of the mouth of the Columbia River taken in Astoria by Morris Pike. Photo of K.C. VanNatta by Jan Jackson
*K.C. Meheffley is a writer for Clearing Up – a newsletter that provides coverage of energy markets in the Pacific Northwest. I is an independently run subsidiary of Ruralite publisher Pioneer Utility Resources.