Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dinner With Angelo Pellegrini

Lean Years, Happy Years
©Bob Peterson
Over Thanksgiving, Angelo Pellegrini popped into my mind and wouldn't leave.  Pellegrini is the famous food writer, immigrant and teacher -- of English at the University of Washington and of the good life through his gardening, wine making and cooking.

I think he got in there because I started leafing through a book he published in 1983 called "Lean Years, Happy Years."  It's about living the simple life in difficult economic times and how rich and satisfying the simple life is – and how available it is, no matter how chaotic the economic setting.  He started writing the book during the Reagan Recession in 1981, a pretty hard hit but certainly not as rough as today's economy.  His message of simplicity and self-reliance plays even better in the tougher time.

He’s also in there because of the Republican immigration debate and how we have so demonized immigrants and how much we depend on them – people like Pellegrini, who at ten years old moved to McCleary, Grays Harbor County, without a word of English, or like Ark Chin, the very sweet man and civil engineer from the firm Kramer Chin and Mayo.  Chin died last week and also was ten years old when he came to Grays Harbor County with no English.

These faceless and different creatures, rising from as humble a county as we have in Washington state, ultimately became teachers to their fellow Americans, one describing how to assemble the bounty everywhere around us and turn it into healthy food and a simple, satisfying life and the other helping us understand the meaning of community and public generosity. 

How thankful we are to have had these people and to have had the University of Washington to nourish them.  I don't know enough about Chin's early life to write about it now but I've read Pellegrini's books and know that Pellegrini speaks for all immigrants when he tells his stories.  He recounts his growing up, essentially a serf, in Italy at the beginning of the 20th century. If he were at dinner over the holiday weekend, we might have coaxed out of him a story about one of his many jobs as a child, collecting manure from goats and sheep with other boys in his village.  It would be mixed with straw and turned into a soil amendment, a critical job in a food system stressed to its edges to produce enough.  The boys recognized the expectations of their families and frequently fought over which turds would go into which bag.

Their solution to this fighting problem would make us laugh, the creation of an allocation system in which individual boys got the output of individual animals.  You could imagine the crowd of boys following a flock to where it was grazing that day, eyes scanning the butts of their chosen animals in front of them. 

We would hear about McCleary when, at 10 years of age, Pellegrini was put in with the first graders to develop his English, and how he quickly rose as the star pupil in his little school, becoming a top debater.


Great Northern Railway workers.  Pellegrini, about 15, is
second from the left of those standing
University of Washington Collection
We'd learn about his amazing discoveries around McCleary -- the mushrooms in the woods he gathered, salmon he caught in the local streams, ducks and pheasant he shot and brought home, the way vegetables popped out of the ground.
 
How cool it would have been to have Pellegrini to dinner.  When he first got there, I imagined, we likely would have offered Pellegrini a drink -- "A martini, perhaps, Angelo?"  In a kind way, so as not to offend, but firmly, he'd tell you what was wrong with martinis, how they robbed of any coherence the beautifully educated minds of his colleagues at the university, standing as if hit by a hammer, unable to talk, or even further stunned, after a second martini, incapable of tasting the wonderful food he had prepared. 

Still in the small talk phase, we'd chat a bit about his garden and how much it supplied his table and, of course, about this year's wine and what would distinguish it in a year or two.  He'd tell us how he'd get grapes from his California friend Robert Mondavi before many wine grapes were growing in the Northwest.

We'd talk about "The Scamp," what he called his son-in-law, Thomas J.  Owens, one of the great lobbyists in Olympia who loved food and drink and literature and the law and the crazy quilt of talent and neediness that made up the elected legislators of the state of Washington.  It was Owens who made a great contribution to the state when he helped break the protective tariff on out-of-state wines, an accomplishment that led to the development of Washington's wonderful wine industry. 

When State Senator Gordon Walgren of Bremerton finally ascended to Majority Leader in 1976, Tom knew he was a cook, (foodie wasn't used then) because they'd cooked together at Tom's little place in Olympia he rented every session.  So Tom collected a few of Walgren's recipes and made a kind of book of them called "The Majority Leader's Cookbook."   Tom had just the right idea for who would write the introduction, the famous professor, Angelo Pellegrini!  Tom was a hell of a lobbyist.


Pellegrini in about 1965
University of Washington Collection
As America began to lead the fast food world, Pellegrini was becoming the spokesman for slower foods, terrific local ingredients, cooked or processed where you lived, in the right way, simple and clean.  In 1946, he wrote a recipe for Sunset Magazine that was the first recipe for pesto published in the United States.  Years later it caught the eye of a young Ruth Reichl, for many years editor of Gourmet magazine, thumbing through old magazines while a young woman in Berkeley.  "Who is this guy?" Reichl thought.  At the time, basil was almost unknown in the US.  She found his book, Pellegrini's 1948 book "An Unprejudiced Palette," in the library.  It was so affecting to her, making the good and ethical life built around food, the life she craved so much, seem within reach.  It was also affecting to Alice Waters, MFK Fisher and many others who had specific ideas about the meaning of food.  Reichl re-published it a few years ago with a forward by Mario Batali.  Batali is a Northwest kid who grew up in Seattle and Yakima while his dad, Armandino, second generation Italian, worked for Boeing and founded the amazing Salumi's in Seattle.

Many of Pellegrini's other books -- "Wine and the Good Life," "A Food Lover's Garden," "Lean Years, Happy Years," expand with greater depth on the idea of a life well-lived that so resonated to later generations after 1948.

Canwell Holding Card
University of Washington
While that year made Pellegrini in the food world, it nearly took him down in the political and academic spheres.  Senator Albert Canwell, a state legislator from Spokane, began investigating what he believed to be a hornets' nest of communism at the University of Washington.  He and his staff began assembling note cards detailing names and relationships of UW staff who belonged to the party or were sympathetic to communism.  While not illegal, many people ran for state legislative and other positions as communists, Canwell believed it should be illegal and was not in the interests of a great university.

Canwell's investigations produced subpoenas to eleven professors, Pellegrini among them.  In the Summer of 1948, in a room in what is now the Seattle Center House, Pellegrini, among others, testified and were questioned by the Canwell Committee.  Pellegrini said he went to some meetings in 1935, he was then 31, and attended meetings infrequently for a year.  His principal memory was a book he reviewed that others thought was not communistic enough.  Pellegrini said that he had enough of their zealotry and stopped going to meetings after a year.

While it was old news to him, it was a challenging time.  Pellegrini was among the most popular professors at the university and his photo in front of the committee was on the front page of the Seattle Times.  He said he could remember the names of just two professors, both long dead in 1948, and no other names.

The committee wanted more names, something he found repugnant, but he said he could remember no others.  Ominously, Canwell insisted that Pellegrini remain under subpoena, the better to jog his memory, but the very next day, a handful of lives in tatters, the committee disbanded and the subpoena disappeared.

Dinner over, Pellegrini would happily put aside those mean days and sit with cognac and turn the conversation to better things -- how to find a morel hiding under the forest duff, the techniques he found best for keeping the fruit forward when making wine, how best to compliment the winemaker for a fine bottle.

"Don't smack your lips and wave your arms!  Look them square in the eye, offer a big smile and give them a wink!"

KUOW interview with Pellegrini's grandson, Brent




Sunday, November 20, 2011

Long Live the Marionberry


Marionberry
Republic of Jam

My Mom and Dad were visiting friends or relatives who lived somewhere near Salem, Oregon and the woman we were visiting, perhaps because I was bored and fidgeting, ushered me out of the house and into a field of carefully cultivated blackberries. We walked along the well kept rows and she narrated as we walked.
She told me that these were brand new berries, called Marionberries, just invented and never before seen in the world outside of a few fields nearby.  The berries had been created over at the college and someone from there had asked to rent their field and let them come over and tend the berries in a certain way.  “Why don’t you try them out,” she said, “and let me know what you think.”  She then went back into the house and left me alone with these shiny new blackberries.  I ate a bunch of them and gave her my glowing report. 

George and Thelma Waldo Marriage Photo, 1938
Cathryn Bates Wilkinson
This is one of my more powerful memories about food.  There was something amazing about the idea of an invented fruit, a new food, something ridiculously rare and expensive.  I felt special, a basic premise of deriving pleasure from food.
George F.  Waldo, a U. S.  Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Service employee, was the man who had created this remarkable berry.  While he did many wonderful things for USDA-ARS, his particular talent was breeding blackberries and his career choice, in 1932, is one of the reasons that Oregon, in particular the Willamette Valley, is now the center of the blackberry universe. 
Caneberries -- blackberries, raspberries, black raspberries, loganberries –are fruit that grow on thick canes which are then pruned in a way so that the second cane can become the platform for fruit growth the next year.  Some are vertical, some grow in bushes, some have long, unruly canes.  They call the whole lot “brambles.”
After graduating from Oregon State College in 1922 and then getting his MS at Michigan State in 1924, Waldo was put in charge of berry breeding at the USDA-ARS in Glen Dale, Maryland.  He did not like the job.  A creative and very private person, he chaffed at overseeing researchers around the country, doling out money to them, guiding them through the creative process, squinting at their ponderous writing, challenging their berry breeding science and priorities.  Mostly growing up in the Northwest, he wasn’t too happy about the boarding house he lived in with eight other people.
George Darrow
George Darrow was across the country establishing a working a partnership between the USDA and Oregon State College while becoming a leader in strawberry breeding.  Waldo respected the organizational skills of Darrow, though he thought his berries were way too tart.  After a time, the two proposed they trade jobs in a move that would bring Waldo back to where he graduated from college and put Darrow into the national leadership role he sought.  The USDA accepted the arrangement and they switched in 1932 – Waldo’s sweetness in for Darrow’s tart.

At that time, the world of caneberries centered in the eastern part of the country where most of the red raspberry, loganberry and other commercial blackberry cultivars were found. 
The USDA – Oregon State University partnership is today the oldest continuing blackberry breeding program in the world.  It was the perfect place for Mr.  Waldo.  Free of the dulling administrative side of plant invention, Mr.  Waldo now let the creative juices flow.  He built a well-known strawberry, the Brightmore, and a raspberry, the Willamette, that are still players in world markets. 
But his real love was blackberries and he quickly got to work improving the breed.  One of the breeds he liked a lot was the Chehalem, a cross he had made of the Himalayan, introduced by plant genius Luther Burbank and with a mistaken heritage--it’s actually from Germany--and the Santiam, another Waldo creation using the only native blackberry species from the west coast, bred with a loganberry. 
To the Chehalem, he added the Olallie, a cross between a blackberry, a loganberry developed in Santa Cruz, California and the Youngberry, a Loganberry/Dewberry cross hailing from Louisiana. 

The announcement of the Marionberry
USDA
He named the result for the county in which he lived and worked, Marion County.  He released this berry to the world in 1957, perhaps three years after I was in that berry patch and eleven years since he selected the first plants from the cross.  The Chehalem was small, firm and held its flavor when processed.  The Olallie was bigger, sweeter and had great yields.  The Marionberry picked up the best of the two – size and yield – and also held its flavor when heated and yes, a mark of Mr. Waldo, it possessed a sweet and sophisticated taste. 

Backyard Gardener
Worldwide, over 50,000 acres of blackberries are in production and result in 155,000 tons of product annually while an estimated 20,000 acres of wild berries are foraged, producing 15,000 wild tons.  Europe and North America together account for nearly 80% of the world market with Serbia the dominant producer in Europe and Oregon the dominant producer in North America.  Blackberries have been a hot prospect for the last twenty years and there is a hefty growth rate in acreages and tons produced all around the world and in Oregon, where the annual crop is worth $40,000,000/year and supports 300 growers and 10 processors in Marion, Clackamas and Washington counties.

To give an idea of the significance of the blackberry to Oregon's fruit economy, its annual revenue is about two thirds the annual revenue of the robust wine grape industry in the state.

This giant of a berry, now the most planted blackberry cultivar in the world, rose out of the hands of a deeply religious man, a Gideon, who refused to eat in a restaurant where alcohol was served, something his assistant, John Martsching despaired of as they drove past restaurant after restaurant in search of a dry one.  Mostly, people referred to him as Mister Waldo.
The Marionberry has some downsides.  It doesn’t provide as much insurance against a cold year as other cultivars.  It has thorns.  Some producers find a thornless blackberry more desirable.  It is a bit softer than other varieties making it slightly harder to survive the stresses of the fast growing fresh markets and it doesn’t hold up as well to machine picking where a machine shakes the bush and the berries experience a fall of a foot or two. Taking all factors together, however, its great taste and overall flexibility make it the top dog still, despite an onslaught of new breeds coming out of Corvallis every year. 
The goals of the blackberry breeding program today are highly specific – a thornless, machine harvestable, cold hardy berry with Marion flavor.  But the new breeds have to also overcome 50 plus years of marketing supporting the Marionberry.  The Blackberry and Raspberry Commission in Oregon has worked the wine angle -- "The Cabernet Sauvignon of berries" -- as well as a football theme that might catch the attention of the National Collegiate Athletic Association athletic police.  A History of Salem website picks up a marketing assertion that the rise of the University of Oregon to regular BCS contention is due, in fact, to a secret sauce:

"Gifts of Marionberry jams and sauces have been offered to lure potential football players to the University of Oregon."

In 2009, the Oregon State Legislature attempted to name the Marionberry the official berry of the state.  These seemingly no-brainer resolutions are often surprisingly controversial.  For years, the Washington State Legislature struggled with an effort to name a state rock and thought the Beach Agate was just right.  But it ran up against a hornets' nest of opposition from the Petrified Wood interests in the eastern part of the state.  Sure enough, a grower in Washington County, whose berry was the Kutata cultivar -- firmer, hardier, slightly larger -- objected to the designation and, despite support of 90 members of the legislature, the Raspberry Blackberry Commission decided to reconsider.  Of course, it was international news. 

Mr.  Waldo retired in 1968 and spent time distributing Gideon Bibles. He died in 1985 at Marysville, Washington and his colleagues in Corvallis did for him what he never would have done for himself – they named a cultivar after him – the first thornless trailing blackberry, now known as “Waldo.”

"Waldo"
Privick Mill Nursery
General Francis Marion, the South Carolina “Swamp Fox” after whom Marion County is named, trails only George Washington among Revolutionary War generals for places named after him.  Today, however, Waldo's berry has clearly eclipsed the general.  A lot of people think that the berry is the reason their county is named Marion and there are even some who believe that Waldo has a nice ring to it.



Sunday, November 13, 2011

Veteran

That day I woke up to the news that Richard Nixon had beaten Hubert Humphrey and would be our next president.  It was a singularly important day for me because as Commander in Chief, Richard Nixon would soon have a very big say in my life, starting in about six hours, when all was done and I was finally inducted, a draftee, into the United States Army.
I had slept little.  The streets I was walking on to the induction center were the same I had worked six months earlier documenting the great victory of McCarthy over Kennedy in that amazing 1968 presidential primary.  Dragging along, holding my little gym bag, the Encyclopedia Britannica definition of sorry-ass. 
The induction center was chaotic.  Someone was inside screaming and I could hear it from the sidewalk before I opened the door.  People with signs were standing around trying to talk with me.  Later that morning, someone opened the door and tossed in a balloon filled with red paint.
I had delayed this moment for college, service in the Peace Corps, my father’s long illness.  The notice came to me several times, but I did what was necessary to do what I wanted, or had to do.  Then, working at a film production company in Seattle, I got the notice again and flirted, for a few days, with another measure.  Ironically, one of the producers at the company was working on a piece about draft dodgers who had gone to Canada and I stood around the Moviola listening to his interviews as he edited, running the words through again and again. 

631st Infantry Division
I even went down to the Canadian Consulate and got forms to be a Landed Immigrant, though I knew in my heart I wasn’t going anywhere but into the United States Army.
Snow flakes were sprinkling down as we left Portland for Fort Lewis and basic training.  If you look up the winter of 1968/69, you will see descriptors like “record setting” or “landmark” to describe what was among the heaviest snowfalls ever in the Northwest. 

There is a lot of tension during the last week of basic training because soon everyone will know where they are going and, in most cases for how long.  The biggest unknown is what your MOS -- Mode of Service -- will be.  To be real, in the Army, everything needs a number, so it has given each job a code.  The one you don’t want to see is 11B, Light Weapons Infantryman or, equally disappointing, 11C, Indirect Fire Infantryman – mortar operator.  As a draftee, there is a significantly higher chance you will see the 11B because many of your fellow soldiers have traded an additional year of service for a safer MOS, say 31B, Military Police.  There’s some truth in the numbers.  Draftees serving in Vietnam were 25% of the troops and 30% of the dead.
When basic training was done, the barracks began emptying and people moved on.   Soon there were ten of us left, then 4, then, finally, me.   After an agonizing ten days, my letter came and according to the Army, since I possessed a civilian acquired skill, my number would be 84E, Television Cameraman.  I was on my way to Augusta, Georgia, where it was warm and where I would work producing educational television for the Army. 
I soon settled into a nice routine, working on shows like “Field Wire Relay Splicing,” “Why Vietnam?” and “Drugs, You and the Army.”  Linda became pregnant and we realized just how difficult it was without an air conditioner in August.  Even on my salary of $133 dollars/month, we bought one. 
We had many friends in the same pickle and we all shopped at the PX, bought discount beer, had cheap but entertaining dinners and waited warily for a letter that might come. 
One day, a busybody sergeant who was the administrator of our little production team, a guy who knew nothing about television and everything about the Army, came up and blurted out: 
“Royer, your MOS is all fucked up!  You’re not working as a cameraman, you are producing television.  I’ve sent in the paperwork to change your MOS to 71R, Television Producer.”
This was bad news.  I reasoned that if the Army hadn’t found my 84E and sent me to Vietnam after six months, they wouldn’t do it anytime soon and I was nearing the magical point of having less than a year left to serve, one year being the basic time of deployment in the combat zone.  
Surfacing a new MOS meant another scan by an Army mainframe.  And my reasoning was right.  Before a month was gone, I was called in and received my orders to produce television at the American Forces Vietnam Network in Saigon, Republic of Vietnam.

The Author, May, 1970
The rules then were much more straightforward than they are for America’s wars today.  Service in the combat zone was for one year.  Some people voluntarily extended their term in the combat zone.  The sports reader at the Army television station in Saigon spent several years presenting the sports news.  He was married to a Vietnamese woman, had a well-connected family and lived in a nice Saigon neighborhood.  Others re-upped for different reasons, but most stayed just a year.
Instant friendship is a hallmark of working at a war.  I spent a week hanging out with a helicopter medic in the Mekong Delta town of Can Tho.  There was a major hospital there and my job was to film medevac missions he flew in support of ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) troops. 

Neither of us subscribed to the fundamental propositions of why we and 550,000 other people had been transported to Vietnam.  So, I was knocked over by the response he gave to my question about how “short” he was, a term meaning how many months, days, hours, minutes it was before he boarded an aircraft in Saigon for the Oakland Army Base and separation.  He said he had just re-upped for another six months.  He told me he was pretty overwhelmed when he first came to Vietnam and thought he had done a poor job his first six months – the bloodiest, most dangerous time of the war, flying into landing zones surrounded by well-armed North Vietnamese Regulars.  He said he felt it was important to atone for not doing a better job.
I think of that selflessness and risk-taking when considering the strains put on the all volunteer military during the Ten Years War that began after 9/11.  There are, of course, no draftees, and so the National Guard and the Reserves became a more important part of the combat deployment.  In Vietnam, use of National Guard and Reserve units was relatively limited, about 9,000 National Guard served in Vietnam along with 20,000 or so Reserves.  Comparatively, across the ten year span of the Vietnam War, 3,000,000 troops served in-country.  However, in the Middle East, the Guard and Reserves have made up 40% of the US Troop deployment.  And, unlike Vietnam, the term of service in the combat zone has been unclear.  Many had their one year deployments extended and the Defense Department’s goal of a one year deployment out of six years of service has not been met, leading to second, third and even fourth deployments of individuals. 
There have been about 1.4 million people deployed in the Mideast since 2001.  Of that number, 42% were deployed twice and 13% were deployed three times.  Four percent, nearly 50,000 people, deployed four times.
The American Forces Health Surveillance Center, which keeps extensive health data on US military personnel, reports that additional deployments increase significantly the frequency of post traumatic stress, depression and other mental disorders.  The research also showed that “dwell times”, those periods between one deployment and another, also have an effect on mental disorders -- the longer the dwell time, the more severe the mental reaction to the deployment.
Overall, the September 2010 Medical Surveillance Report cites service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan as having self-reported PTSD symptoms 9% of the time and depression symptoms more than 27% when asked 90-180 days after deployment.
The fact that National Guard and Reserves are deployed in such numbers and tend to be older and with more established families and children, brings the war home more frequently to the 220,000 children of deployed military as well as their 1.1 million spouses.  The American Forces Health Surveillance Center reports:
"The cumulative impact of multiple deployments is associated with more emotional difficulties among military children and more mental health diagnoses among spouses.  A 2010 study reports an 11% increase in outpatient visits for behavioral health issues among a group of 3-8 year old children of military parents and an increase of 18% in behavioral disorders and a 19% increase in stress disorders when a parent is deployed."
Coming home is as much a part of the military experience as leaving it.  A little bit of war rubs off on children, families and friends and the gravitational pull of it alters careers, marriages and outlooks.  What my friend in Can Tho was willing to do and what our volunteer army demonstrates today is inspirational, but it might not be exactly the right thing to do.  These limited objective wars may be pushing the idea of citizen soldiers too hard, putting too much pressure on the citizen by overburdening the soldier.  It may require some other kind of strategy, perhaps some kind of national service concept, to spread around the impacts. 
It is simply not in the best interest of our democracy to have one percent of the country working that long and hard to defend the other 99%.

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center Must look at this.
American Forces Vietnam Newsletter
Audio Archive of AFVN Broadcasts

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Columbia River Treaty, Rolling On

Unusual Travel Destinations

The Columbia River Treaty is on the table this year in that serious, slow motion way treaties are when they are on the table.  In 2024, there is an opportunity to change the treaty or even opt out of it, but any changes require a ten year notice, so work is going on feverishly today to come up with positions for both the Canadian and US sides by 2014.
The treaty is a monster business deal that got much of its impetus from the construction of Grand Coulee Dam.  The core business proposition is that British Columbia builds three dams on the Columbia in Canada and the US builds one in Montana that provide the necessary storage to generate additional electricity at American dams downstream, starting at Grand Coulee.  The parties then split the proceeds of the additional generation, called the downstream benefit, and the US purchases the significant flood control benefits provided by Canada.  Both countries get irrigation.
The treaty brackets the brief presidency of John.  F. Kennedy.  It was just about the last thing President Eisenhower did as President, signing it with Prime Minister John Diefenbaker on January 17, 1961.  President Johnson, Prime Minister Lester Pearson and British Columbian Premier W.A.C.  Bennett signed off on various legislative changes made during the ratification process and made it final at the International Border near Blaine, Washington on September 16, 1964.
As World War Two was ending, Canada and the US asked the International Joint Commission, the group set up by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty between the US and Great Britain, to study ways that would maximize the value to both countries of the great river they shared.  It took the IJC 15 years, but they produced something both countries really liked.
Negotiations between the parties had been taking place while the IJC was doing all that study so it was a relatively quick 13 months to come up with a satisfactory package in 1961.  It took nearly three years to get it ratified as British Columbia and the federal government of Canada disagreed on the idea of exporting electricity to the US.  
When it was all done, British Columbia sold its share of the downstream benefits to a consortium of utilities in the US and used the proceeds of the sale to build their three dams.  Over time, British Columbia took back its share of electricity.
Bureau of Reclamation
While not part of the document, an important element of the treaty is the fact of Grand Coulee Dam, whose massive storage in the US and in Canada and whose sizeable generation capacity earns much of the cash for the treaty participants.

The presumed value of this great project changed dramatically over time.  Early on, its political value was to create a reclaimed desert for displaced dustbowl homesteaders but then the world went to hell and it served as the arsenal of democracy.  An AP story had it that the first 400,000,000 kilowatt hours produced in 1941 created 20,000 tons of aluminum, enough for 6,400 fighter planes.  Soon after it was finished, electrons from the dam were delivered south to a “mystery load” at a place called Hanford.
The Saturday Evening Post, reflecting on the controversial history of the project, had it this way with the headline:
“White Elephant Comes Into Its Own.”
The dam started out as a much smaller project than it became.  It was about half as tall as it is today, 550 feet, and would have looked more like its sister dam, Bonneville, downriver.  But the low dam didn’t do as much for irrigation since most of the water went to generate electricity, so it didn't work with the local boosters.
The Hoover Administration and private utilities feared that the electricity produced by the dam would not have enough customers.  During the twenties, US electricity production had doubled and utilities feared costly surpluses in the crippled economy of the thirties where loads did, in fact, decrease in several of the Great Depression years.

September 22, 1938
Cushman Collection, Indiana University
But President Roosevelt was all in on Grand Coulee when he took office and set aside enough money to begin the project as part of his first hundred days.  He quickly came to the conclusion that the higher dam was the right solution and in legislation passed in 1935 federalized the project – putting the Federal Power Commission statutes and their environmental and property right protections out of play.  This dam would be built by the administration, now exempt from its own rules, by the Interior Department, run by one of the most able of the president’s men, Harold Ickes, whose Bureau of Reclamation had the motto “Total use for greater wealth.”  

Confederated Tribes of the Colville
The big losers were, of course, the salmon and the Native Americans living above the dam, the Colville and the Spokane as well as the First Nations living along the 465 miles of river in Canada.  Both US tribes had treaty fishing rights at Kettle Falls where aboriginal people had fished since the last Ice Age.  The dam would permanently block salmon from the remainder of the Columbia River north of it, 650 miles, and wipe out spawning habitat in another 650 miles of tributaries.  Kettle Falls makes an occasional appearance in extremely low water conditions today.

Be assured this was no oversight.  The US and Canadian governments were fully aware that the design of the dam was lethal to the fishery.  Huge irrigation pumps located just behind the dam face sucked out water at 18,000 cubic feet/second – the normal flow of the Skagit River.  The 550 foot drop over the concrete dam face would descale migrating fish or kill them on impact.  Also, costs of the fish ladders at Bonneville were coming in much higher than expected.   So, none were contemplated seriously in the US and the Canadians, who wanted as many dams on their side of the border that they could fit in the river, were not objecting.  Because the political choreography seemed better, the US applied for International Joint Commission approval for the dam just before it was finished, which was provided in three months.
Washington State University Libraries
The fish were an afterthought.  Well after construction progress had blocked the river, in 1937, the Bureau of Reclamation gave $25,000 to the Washington State Department of Fisheries to investigate salmon mitigation strategies.  Director W.B. Brennan recommended a large hatchery at Icicle Creek outside of Leavenworth that would hatch the eggs, raise the doomed races of fish and distribute them below the dam.  The fact is that the salmon of those times simply had no status.  In 1937, a work stoppage was misinterpreted by the workforce as coming from the state of Washington Fisheries Department.  One of the many Coulee Dam boosters at the time summed up the prevailing attitude by asking the question “what is more important – the 15,000 people living here or the love life of 30,000 fish.” 
The tribes were more difficult because, unlike the salmon, they didn’t go away.  At a hearing in 1994, Spokane leader Warren Seyler testified his tribe had received just $4,700 in compensation and the Colvilles testified they had received but $63,000 for the fishery, houses and their agricultural lands along the banks of the river.  A frantic effort in 1938 resulted in the reburial of some of the more recent native American dead from both tribes.  Many graves of both tribes are still under Lake Roosevelt, buried with their heads pointed down river. 
In 1951, the Colvilles sued under the Indian Claims Commission Act, a remarkable statute that sought to give the nation’s tribes their day in court.  In 1994, their pursuit of justice led to HR 4757, The Grand Coulee Settlement Act of 1994.  Colville Chairman Eddie Palmanteer testified for the tribe:
“The Colville people suffered uniquely as a result of the construction of Grand Coulee Dam. Two Colville towns, Inchelium and Keller, were inundated by the backwaters created when Grand Coulee Dam was built. Today they, with their hundreds of years of history, lie under the waters of Lake Roosevelt, as do the graves of many of our ancestors that could not be removed as the waters rose. In short, Grand Coulee Dam changed forever the livelihood and lives of our people and the very nature of the Colville Reservation. For this, the Colville Tribes received sixty three thousand dollars.”
The Settlement Act gave the Colville and the Spokane $53 million for past flooding of their lands and they now receive $15 million annually for the continued use of their reservation for power production. 

Wenatchee World
The tribes got their justice.  “Was it full compensation?” asked Palmanteer.  “No.  We realize that for the Pacific Northwest the Grand Coulee Dam has made development and prosperity possible. But for us, it has been a disaster. How much is reasonable compensation for the loss of our fishery, our way of life, our towns where our elders lived?"
But, he went on, "is it fair?"  His answer was  "Yes.”
Justice for the salmon remains elusive.  The Icicle Creek Hatchery still operates, though ironically, it blocks the lovely creek it sits on and is the subject of a lengthy lawsuit. 
The region has spent many billions over the past thirty years and has created a not-so-small industry of scientists, technicians and policymakers, non-governmental organizations, engineering firms, lawyers and advocates.  For all its activity, this complex has been unable to articulate what Eddie Palmanteer was able to describe about the understanding he was a part of -- something that is fair, but well short of full.  Without that understanding they are, like Sisyphus, pushing the rock uphill. Like Sisyphus, Big Salmon appears content, if not entirely accountable.
Negotiators in the US are working toward some kind of a recommendation on issues around the Columbia River Treaty sometime in mid-2013.  There are plenty of uncertainties and complications and the number of interested parties on our side and theirs create a confusing setting for precise communication -- much like trying to have a conversation in a noisy restaurant. 
And the setting is so different from those conversations at the beginning of the treaty 47 years ago.  Global warming was not yet thought of, something to consider for a river draining two major mountain ranges over 1240 miles.  Nor was there any thinking that salmon would have such stature in the northwest corner of the United States that 20 different species of salmon would have listings under the Endangered Species Act and the region spends the power equivalent of two nuclear plants providing water for the salmon to migrate downstream.  Nor was there then the concept that the British Columbian government would have to consult with its First Nations Tribes on decisions affecting them and their way of life.  Nor were there more than 3,000 megawatts of wind generation plugged into the Bonneville system with many kinks to be worked out and more on the way.
What was preposterous in 1964 is everyday life today as the Columbia rolls on and the two sides get ready.