constantly trying to maintain a working depth for the large ocean-going vessels of at least 40 feet. Another aspect of it is really change the entire complexion of the Columbia River has to be the dams. It‟s affected almost every dimension of the river it‟s affected its personality, its seasonal changes, the amount of material that flows. It‟s affected the commerce in this industry it provides the electricity that has actually created the fluorescence of the Willamette Valley, Portland, Seattle the irrigation of the interior lands, and has also resulted inadvertently in the loss of the salmon. Many people heard about the sa lmon fisheries on the Columbia River, but it‟s hard to imagine just how good those really were. The largest salmon cannery in the United States was here in Astoria, now it remains the largest single national registered historic site, the cannery. And the salmon is really beyond imagination. When I first moved here I thought sure I know about salmon, I‟ve had salmon before I know what they are. But in going through the historical photographs and the records of the canneries, it‟s just, it really is staggering. It‟s another one of those statistical figures that you mentioned in the large drainage area or the cubic feet per second of flow. It was like the buffalo for the Native Americans. It was bison that twice a year no matter what, the flow of this food source and economic resource was so powerful that it supported all kinds of Native Americans. It was part of their religion, their culture, everything. And unfortunately the dams really resulted in an adverse impact. And in a way curiously, not the w ay folks think. Most people think that the dams were put up because the salmon can‟t migrate up. And the fish ladders were provided for that, I think people anticipated that. But as it turned
5 out, the real problem in salmon is the fact that the impounded water behind the dams slows the downward migration of the little guys, the little baby salmon before they go out into the ocean and that‟s where the losses are. Sometimes it‟s 90% behind each dam. So that‟s really changed everything. The complexion of the Columbia River has really changed as well. The rapids that were world famous that are around the Dells, Oregon and in the Colombia River gorge are no longer in existent. That was a prime Native American fishing area and trading area. And now there‟s a series of seven major lakes going all the way up into Idaho. You can go all the way to Lewiston with large ships carrying grain and barges and tugs so you get traffic and that was just impossible before. So you get the good and the bad but it‟s defini tely a different river than it was just 200 years ago. (Scene changes to Professor Paul Hirt in office setting) [Professor Hirt]: As implied in some of Jerry Ostermiller‟s comments, the Columbia and Snake River systems literally tie together the sprawling Northwest region. A number of our other interviews discuss different aspects of the history of the Columbia and Snake rivers and we‟re gonna go to two more of those; Keith Peterson and Paul Pitser.
- Fall '19
- The Bible, Columbia River, Professor Hirt, Professor Paul Hirt