There are an estimated 74,993 dams in America, blocking 600,000 miles of what had once been free flowing rivers, nearly one dam built for each day since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Thats about 17 percent of all rivers in the nation. Dams now block almost every major river system in the West. Many of those dams have destroyed important spawning and rearing habitat for chinook, coho and other commercially important salmon runs upon which our industry depends. In some once productive salmon river systems (such as the Sacramento Valley), less than 5% of their original habitat is now still available to salmon. In the Columbia River Basin, once the most productive salmon river system in the world, less than 70 miles of that once great river still remains free flowing.
Commercial salmon fishermen have been fighting a rear guard action against widespread dam building since at least the 1930's, when the big dams started going in. Throughout the west, many boondoggle dam projects were either never built, or were substantially modified, to protect irreplaceable fish runs as a direct result of the outcry of fishermen. There would be no mitigation hatcheries, for instance, had it not been for salmon fishermen demanding them as compensation for lost habitat.
Unfortunately, hatcheries cannot eliminate the problem of widespread habitat loss. Even hatchery fish must have sufficient habitat to survive. As a result of habitat destruction, at least 106 major U.S. west coast salmon runs have already been driven to extinction, and 25 more are now on the federal endangered species list with many others being proposed. These huge losses have caused havoc within our fisheries. It is time to say, "Enough!" It is time for some of the worst fish-killing dams to come down.
Decommissioning dams is timely and doable. Dams were never intended to last forever, and all were designed to serve for only a given engineered lifespan. In many cases these dams no longer make economic sense, particularly in the face of widespread ecological and watershed damage that must now be paid for. Even Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt has stated in a recent speech that the time to decommission many of these dams has arrived. (Click here for excerpts from Secretary Babbitt's recent speech on dam removal.)
PCFFA and its member associations have long opposed more dam-building,
and have endorsed the removal of several dams as necessary measures for
west coast salmon restoration. This page provides resources for fishermen
to join our efforts and help bring the US west coast's commercial valuable
and ecologically irreplaceable salmon runs back from the brink of
PCFFA Policy Statements on Dams:
Ending the Era of Big Dams: Why Some Dams Must Go (Fishermen's News, August, 1999)
PCFFA Statement on Columbia River Dams and Salmon (1996)
PCFFA Dam Decommissioning Projects:
California Hydropower Dam Environmental Review Project -- PCFFA is spearheading a coalition of groups seeking environmental review and decommissioning of more than 200 California hydropower dams which Pacific Gas & Electric (P.G. & E.) and Southern California Edison (SCE) (California's two largest public utilities) are seeking to sell, thus removing them from control of the California Public Utilities Commission. Once these dams are removed from public utility ownership, we will have missed the chance to correct their deficiencies. PCFFA proposes that instead these dams should be turned over to a State-financed public corporation for extensive environmental review and -- if necessary to protect salmon and other aquatic resources -- these dams could then be either modified or decommissioned. This link leads to a summary of the PCFFA/Coalition Legislative Proposal.
A River Runs Against It: America's Evolving View of Dams, article by Bruce Babbitt (Open Spaces Magazine)
Campaigns for the Decommissioning of Specific Dams:
National and International Dam Decommissioning Efforts:
U.S. and International Dam Agencies:
Back to PCFFA Home Page