Can salmon survive the dams?

Lower Monumental Dam, Snake River

Here in the Pacific Northwest, a huge environmental concern is the shrinking salmon population caused by the hydroelectric dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers.  Over a billion dollars a year is spent trying to repair this damage and introducing large amounts of fish to the rivers through hatchery programs. The presence of these dams has been a subject of much controversy, but I recently read an article in The Oregonian that suggests that these salmon are actually evolving to survive these dams. They are growing larger and altering their migration patterns, and some attribute these changes to natural selection. While this may be a good thing now, some people are concerned that since the only fish able to survive are those adapted to the dams, when these dams inevitably disappear the fish will be faced with yet another challenge. I think this is an example of Buchwald’s idea that humans are “a force of geological proportion.” Salmon have existed for millions of years and survived ice ages, but in a period of only a few years humans have managed to push their population into the category of endangered species by building these dams, not to mention causing other issues such as warming waters and ocean acidification.

-Matt Z


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