Even Gordon Smith's allies don't believe him on the Smith/Cheney fish-kill in the Klamath River

The Eugene Register-Guard takes Gordon Smith to task for his absurd answers on the 2002 Klamath fish-kill.

He told the R-G that he thought it was "gill disease" that killed the fish.

Smith, who pushed the Bush administration to help get water for farmers' potato crops and alfalfa fields, said he recalled that the salmon "died of some gill disease, which is not uncommon and happens periodically."

But even Smith's friends are laughing out loud at him.

Commercial fishing advocate Glenn Spain said Smith has been an ally over the years. But after reading the senator's comments, Spain said Smith's version of those events in 2002 did not square with his own. Spain said there was no question that diverting water reduced river flows to such low levels that returning salmon died in the lower Klamath River, with the death toll estimated as high as 77,000.

Smith attributing the dead fish to gill disease, Spain said, "is sort of like saying lung cancer kills smokers, not smoking."

"The triggering cause is low water flow. And then the fish die of a dozen different diseases, all of which are related to high water temperatures, crowding fish, stress and the fact that they can't get up the river ... because there's not enough water for them to travel in," said Spain, the Northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "All of those were in play, but they all derived from low flows."

But it's not just Smith's friends taking him to task. Gordon Smith argues that we should look at all the best available science. Bummer for him -- the scientists are calling him out, too:

That was the same conclusion of a peer-reviewed evaluation of the fish kill, published in 2004 by the California Department of Fish and Game.

The California report said the fish had entered the Klamath River to encounter stressful conditions: warm temperatures, low flows and crowding because of an unusually large run returning to spawn. Under such conditions, they succumbed to diseases triggered by a parasite-caused bacterial infection, which led to lesions on the gills and elsewhere. While these parasites and bacteria are common, they don't typically cause fish kills, especially among wild fish, which made up the majority in this die-off, the scientists wrote. In this case they did, however, because of the river's conditions.

Among the factors that contributed to the fish kill, the report said 2002's unusually low water flows were unique.

"Flow is the only controllable factor and tool available in the Klamath Basin ... to manage risks" against future major fish kills, the report concluded.

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    It was nice to see the Oregonian finally do a story on Smith that didn't position him as a moderate. In fact the headline connecting him with Cheney was pretty damning. However, I didn't see them quote either Novick or Merkley in the story. Wouldn't want to remind the citizens that Smith has opponents now would we.

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    Yeah but...

    I'm certainly one that wants to see plenty of political coverage -- but I'm OK with depoliticizing this for now.

    The Smith/Cheney fish-kill is a serious issue that deserves serious examination; rather than the typical political horserace coverage that we're going to see plenty of later.

    We complain plenty that the major media only talks about the horserace... in this case, the Oregonian has done the right thing by focusing on the serious issues at stake.

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    Oh, and today's Oregonian story is here. The above, of course, relates to the Register-Guard's coverage.

  • Marc Siegel (unverified)

    If you believe Smith has an honesty problem - there's lots of evidence for this at www.StopGordonSmith.com, just click on the Smith vs. Smith link - then write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper on Smith's deceptions. Encourage them to expose his real record.

    After you send your letter off, email at least two people and tell them to click into www.StopGordonSmith.com and decide if they trust Gordon Smith.

  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)

    'Salmon-killer Smith' asks Dick Cheney to 'have a look at the science? Ha,ha,ha,ha,ha. What a joke. It couldn't be more clear that Smith was only interested in serving a small politically connected group of farmers in the Kalamath Basin instead of the citizens of the state at large and certainly not in the interests of the tribe or the salmon. To the Cheney/Bush Admiinistration, science is just another item to be manipulated to serve republican party donors. We need to keep looking into this until we get the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

  • Coyote (unverified)

    Anybody know what position(s), if any, Smith has taken on global climate change? Seems like if he and Walden are so interested in the "best available science," they should be taking the lead on combating global warming, no?

    Please tell me they're not hypocrites. That would just ruin my day.

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    Senator Smith was in K Falls on Saturday with Governor Kulongoski. It would be refreshing to see Gordon go it alone rather than riding Wyden's or Kulongoski's coat tails. On July 5th he wandered into a Wyden event in Medford. Wyden's staff and Wyden were totally taken by surprise.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
    <h2>The question now is, "How long will it take Smith supporters, especially so-called Democrats for Smith, to recognize his credibility is shot?"</h2>
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