In order to negate the negative publicity his dams were about to receive with the Free the Snake event, Lt. Col. Vail, Walla Walla District of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, put out a statement that many people got to see run in articles that would run about the Free the Snake event. Journalists took these comments and ran with them because they at a very base level provide balance to a story where the driving narrative is 300 plus people, 200 boats demonstrate in front of salmon-killing dam to demand the lower Snake Dams be breached and the lower Snake River be freed. The problem with simply running the opposing view's statement is really only what has been the biggest problem with journalism since the internet decided we no longer need journalists and that is verification of facts. Fact checking...not a lot of that going on these days. What you typically get with any issue are what two sides say. If one or both of those sides are not above chicanery essentially you get what could be thought of as a great and balanced story where neither the truth or the reading public is served. Essentially, you get two versions of propaganda and we are not the wiser. We're dumbed down by these worthless missives force fed to us on a daily basis. Sometimes, the media dumbs us down because they themselves cannot grasp the nuance or the particulars of the argument and they fall back on some well-trod stereotype that does not serve the argument, the republic or the reading audience well. Well, fool me once, the saying goes, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Here's the deal, Lt. Col. Vail's statement isn't anything more than a version of part of this story that the inaction agencies are willing to share. If he is technically correct in the numbers he did share, he left a lot of numbers out. This isn't a secret if you read this blog.
So, Lt. Col. Vail either drew the wrong straw between him and the other two inaction agencies (Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration) and had to come up with the most rosy picture for those dams or perhaps it was always his task to provide a contradicting statement short on facts and comprehensiveness.
The problem with his statement, in fact the problem with these inaction agencies and the BPA's buying of state agency's silence, is there are too many whistle blowers, too much public record and a whole hell of a lot more lawsuit discovery than would have ever been needed had these inaction agencies not obfuscated their way through the past (Jesus, has it been 12 years now!) Had they realized when the first plan was ruled illegal in 2003 that they should actually consider what the people who were thumping them in court were saying needed to be done, maybe we wouldn't be here today (nowhere near recovery). And as they continue to lie to the public about 'record runs' of fish, not many people are buying it. People know it takes 10 years and a veritable plethora of expensive hatchery fish to get back the same number of fish we used to get back each year by doing nothing at all. Sure, the slow-on-the-uptake crowd buy that "record runs" stuff like candy, but when have they ever read past the headline? Sure media hacks run with that crap because they have space or time to fill and quite frankly if you think journalism is the main product of your media outlets these days, I hate to inform you of your error. Letterman was more correct when he joked about infotainment. Sometimes they do actually get around to doing the actual job of journalism, or someone actually clears enough time for some journalist (they haven't laid off yet) to actually do a real, fact-checked, investigative story and the republic smiles briefly. Sadly, though, within 6 months to a year of any true journalistic breakthrough, you can bet the bank that the very same outlet will run a story that is counter-intuitive to the knowledge mankind had previously gained.
Well, I promise you the call for the lower Snake River dams to come down isn't going away until they do come down. Why? Because there is a landslide of evidence against those dams from the fact that they are still the primary killer of our wild salmon, they have already been replaced as far as power generators in the region, their existence cheats the tourism economy of the lower Snake some $1.5 billion per year, irrigation would only need some more pipe without them, they were not designed and do not provide flood protection and the hubris of a seaport at Lewiston continues to prove its champions woefully on the wrong side of history as shipping continues to shrink and the waterway is defined by its champions as a waterway of 'negligible use.'
Put simply, they are deadbeat dams and anyone with an open mind and a rudimentary ability to add and subtract can see just how absolutely useless and damaging these dams are and everyday they stand brings us one step closer to wild salmonid extinction in the Snake River Basin. I refuse to fail these fish. I refuse to fail you, America. It is rare when the preponderance of evidence is so in the favor of doing the right thing and where by doing that right thing this other crucially important thing restores itself. And yet, here it is, wrapped up with a little bow on it, if you just open your mind and let facts speak for themselves and when you recognize and reject propaganda.
So, I am going to share with you a response some of my friends and fellow wild salmon advocates put together in a letter they sent to Lt. Col. Vail today. I also included Lt. Col. Vail's response below this letter. It is in the reader if you are on a computer and I have also attached the pdf version for you mobile users. Who knows, maybe tomorrow or a few days from now, I pick up a paper and they actually do their job. That'd be nice for a change, of course, a majority of the most able journalists are in another career or looking for work and the republic is the lesser for it. Open your mind, read this letter to Lt. Col. Vail, understand just how lopsided this issue is. Do you wonder why the government keeps having its plans declared illegal in court? It's not that hard to figure out when you understand who is speaking truth to power and who is obfuscating. If the government's position (dams are good, fish aren't dying in the dams) then why aren't the inaction agencies walking all over these arguments from salmon advocates? The truth still has inherent power, that's why. Who is speaking the truth? I know, do you?