Thursday, November 03, 2005

Grand Coulee Dam vs BC salmon

A page out of history, but one that doesn't look like it's fading. The story of how the Grand Coulee Dam wiped out the run of king salmon that went into Lower British Columbia. It looks like there is an effort now to get the U.S. Government to make good on a 1941 promise that any person or entity would be indemnified in case of any adverse consequences of blocking off the Columbia River.

Picture of "coming in for a landing" at Port Alexander. The famous troll drag is from "Breakfast Rock" at the entrance to the Port, to Cape Omaney in the distance. You were having breakfast about the time you passed "Breakfast Rock" on your way out fishing for the day.

And what consequences they were. Those tribes took 75,000 kings out of the river one year and then zero the next. And that 75 k number could be applied to the next 10,000 years of use of those fish as well as the last 64 years. The different ways of looking at this in court will undoubtedly run the whole gamut.

Maybe why this article caught my attention was because of another article and photo I saw once. It featured a king salmon that had washed down out of Canada and ended up on a sandbar in the Columbia in Eastern Washington. That spawned out carcass weighed in at 150 pounds! I guess these were what they refered to as the "spring hogs," that fed the early canneries in Astoria, Oregon.

But they also fed fishing boats all the way to Alaska. When I was trolling I heard of boats in the past finding big kings that would just break off every time they were hooked. So the boats would retie their gear with stainless steel wire leaders to be able to haul them in. I still have some old brass trolling spoons, that were probably my grandfather's, that have a stainless steel leader remnant still attached.

Right before the Bonneville Dam was build on the Columbia river in the 1920's, the town of Port Alexander, Alaska would swell to over 3,000 people in the summer. The object of their desire was the run of king salmon that would lay in behind Cape Omaney, to feed on the big herring schools, on their way south. Just a few short years after the Bonneville Dam went in, the fishery dropped off and the town went bust for the most part. It furthered shriveled until it became a virtual ghost town, just before the "hippie hand trollers" found it. I say that with great affection, of course, since I hand trolled for a couple of summers back then, inbetween careers.

All this is great fodder for lawyers. Law schools might even start offering courses like "Buffalo Hunter's Heirs as Class Action Defendants." But seriously, we may or may not be out of the woods on protecting such valuable renewable resources. Heck, in Alaska you're still getting fisheries legislation "coming down from the top." Read that, "just guessing." But, not to worry. This kind of thing only tends to wipe out fishermen. Read that, "over 700 king crab fishermen lose their jobs, the rest take a dollar a pound price cut."


Post a Comment

<< Home