My dad would be 118 today. He use to reminisce about before the Elwha Dam, when giant (85-pound and bigger) Chinook salmon would travel up the very short 70-mile-long Elwha to spawn. Before the dam sometimes as many as 500,000 salmon could clog the river yearly. Today about 1 percent of that number enters the river. These numbers vary yearly, but you get the picture.
Post Mount St. Helens’ eruption, the Toutle was devastated. Today, salmonids are back. Rivers always can heal with time, environmental protection, and commitment to restoration. Condit Dam’s breach adds miles of habitat. And it didn’t parboil every snail and steelhead like the Toutle did. So, with time, healing and happy salmonids will happen.
As far as breaching dikes bordering wildlife refuges, one of the weakest links in salmon recovery that too many politicians and duck hunters do not like to discuss is loss of salmon-rearing areas, which seasonally flooded wetlands use to provide. Baby salmonids could find refuge to eat, rest, and grow strong for the trip to the Pacific. So, every acre not just managed for waterfowl, but also for salmon recovery, adds hundreds of thousands of salmon fingerlings to the recovery equation.