Important articles published by national and regional news outlets related to wild salmon restoration in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
Oregonian: Tribes warn of imminent fish passage crisis at damaged Wanapum Dam, ask feds to step in
April 9, 2014
By Ted Sickinger
Native American tribes say not enough is being done to address an “imminent crisis” in fish passage on the Columbia River due to the drawdown of the reservoir behind the damaged Wanapum Dam in central Washington.
In late February, the dam’s operator, Grant County Public Utility District, discovered a 65-foot-long crack in a concrete spillway pier at the dam and was forced to draw down the reservoir behind the dam to relieve pressure on the structure. The utility has hired a contractor to drill core samples in the dam and determine the extent of the problem. That job should be done by June.
Paul Lumley in the Oregonian: To manage the Columbia River, we need a new treaty for a new era
Paul Lumley's op-ed on the Columbia River Treaty, which appeared in The Oregonian May 5, opens a subject SOS members will hear and do more about: how can Northwest people make sure that the 50-year-old Columbia River Treaty is modernized for today's, and tomorrow's, Northwest? The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, which Mr. Lumley heads, represents four of 15 Columbia Basin Tribes that have joined together inside the Treaty process to make the Treaty's purposes and provisions better serve our new century. After a recent meeting with them, SOS and others have begun working together to assist the Tribes from outside the Treaty process. Or, more accurately, the Treaty process will soon become a political process - as it should - and that's where we'll work. Lumley's op-ed helps show why we are excited to assist the 15 Tribes' efforts to improve the Columbia River Treaty.
Oregonian Guest Opinion: To manage the Columbia River, we need a new treaty for a new era
By Paul Lumley. May 04, 2013.
The Columbia River Treaty between the United States and Canada has been a hybrid of fears and profits since its ratification in 1964. Narrowly designed for flood control and optimized hydropower production, the treaty has locked in 1960s priorities that do not reflect the modern values and considerations of our time.
Over the course of the half-century since the treaty was made, the region's measure of the Columbia River basin's benefits has evolved to encompass uses that extend beyond power production and aggressive flood control. Regional and national values, as reflected in laws such as the Endangered Species Act, have expanded to include healthy fish populations and healthy ecosystems. Ecological requirements are not included in the current treaty, but now is the time to move them into the limelight.
Before the treaty's 50-year control of the river gives way to a new era, a progressive regional recommendation must be put forth that reflects this evolution of societal values. A modernized treaty should provide equally for ecosystem requirements, hydropower operations and flood-risk management. Working through the treaty review process, the region must look beyond the narrow approach employed 50 years ago and take a broad look at what the river needs. Equal consideration of improved spring migration of salmon, seasonal flushing of the estuary, resident fish requirements and salmon passage at all historic locations are all needs of the Columbia River basin to include in a new treaty.
Let's move beyond our fears of flooding and begin a new conversation on flood-risk management. Flooding is a natural process that benefits the estuary and cannot always be prevented. The 1948 Vanport Flood, often used as a scare tactic to defend the current treaty, would not have been prevented even with the Columbia River Treaty dams in place. New approaches to flood-risk management can provide lower-river benefits without creating havoc in upriver reservoirs.
The Northwest region is scheduled to make a recommendation to the U.S. State Department by year's end on the future of the Columbia River Treaty. The U.S. and Canada will address several major issues, including the sharing of risks and benefits. The Columbia basin tribes will work to include river health as a regional benefit, not something to be negotiated away.
The United States has a monumental opportunity to do the right thing for the Columbia basin's fish populations. The tribes are steadfast in our belief that the Columbia basin ecosystem -- ignored 50 years ago -- must be incorporated this time around.
The salmon and other natural resources are depending on all of us as stewards of their future. Let's make sure that the next Columbia River Treaty is a treaty of our time and our values.
Paul Lumley is a citizen of the Yakama Nation and executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. CRITFC provides technical support and coordination for fishery-management policies of the Columbia basin's four treaty tribes: the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, and the Nez Perce Tribe.
Lewiston Morning Tribune: Crowded conditions likely on Clearwater
By Eric Barker of the Tribune, May 2, 2013
Salmon anglers are accustomed to rising early, sometimes long before fishing hours, to ensure they get a prime spot.
Those fishing the Clearwater River might be forced to go to even further extremes this year.
A below-average return of spring chinook prompted the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to close long stretches of the river and to limit fishing to Fridays through Mondays.
"They are going to shove a lot of people into a little area and everybody is going to be fighting for spots," said Toby Wyatt, owner of Reel Time Fishing of Clarkston. "It's going to be mayhem."
The river will be closed to chinook fishing from Arrow Bridge to the mouth of the North Fork and from Greer Bridge to the mouth of the South Fork. The Lochsa River won't open at all and only a short section of the South Fork Clearwater, from the State Highway 13 bridge near the Harpster Grade to the State Highway 14 bridge near the Mount Idaho Grade, will be open.
That will make for stiff competition when it comes to territory.
"People who want to get in those holes are going to have to get there at 3 in the morning," Wyatt said.
Joe DuPont, fisheries manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston, said some people will be forced to find new places to fish and others will contend with crowding at their favorite holes.
"People used to fishing in one area might see people they haven't seen before, so yes, there is going to be a need for people to get along."
He said the Clearwater regulations were designed to try to ensure the small number of chinook available for harvest are shared evenly over time and throughout the river system. This year's run, as measured at Bonneville Dam, got a late start. Fisheries managers like DuPont still don't know if the run is simply late, as it has been over the past few years, or weaker than expected.
To make sure enough adults return to Clearwater River hatcheries to meet spawning targets, the department took a conservative approach to season setting. That means if the run is simply late, there is a chance there will be more fish to catch than expected.
DuPont said the department prefers to loosen regulations if the strength of the run allows rather than to be overly optimistic and have to shut fishing down early.
"I'm hoping we can expand areas and expand days, but I guess that is yet to be determined."
Outfitter Jason Schultz of Hells Canyon Sport Fishing at Lewiston said he thinks there is some reason to believe the run might be stronger than the forecast used to set fishing regulations. According to his theory, fishing in the lower Columbia River in Oregon and Washington is concentrated on the early part of the run. Fish that return to Idaho have the furthest to swim, so they are generally the first to pulse through the lower Columbia and because of that they face heavy fishing pressure. But the Idaho fish that bring up the rear face less pressure downriver and have a better shot at reaching their destinations.
"Over the years, it is making our run later and later and later," Schultz said.
Evelyn Kaide, owner of the Guide Shop and Clearwater Drifters at Orofino, said planning for spring chinook fishing is nearly impossible.
"We've had some really good years and some bad years and we've gotten stopped in the middle of the season and then had it reopen," she said. "Everyone of them has been different."
Many outfitters like Kaide, Schultz and Wyatt book trips before the season starts and are now juggling to compensate for the days of the week fishing won't be allowed.
"It's tough and it's very nerve-racking," Kaide said.
But she said once people start fishing, they should try their best to get along and forget about the hassles of booking trips or getting their spots.
"You just got to let it go and just fish," she said.
For those looking to avoid the crowds, the vast stretches of lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers and the Snake River in Hells Canyon will be open seven days a week.
Crosscut.com: Salmon - Will the feds ever get their dam act together?
In preparing a new Biological Opinion, NOAA asks stakeholders how to resolve longstanding conflicts between Northwest dams and salmon.
By Daniel Jack Chasan
April 23, 2013
It's April, so once again, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is spilling water over Columbia River system dams, speeding salmon smolts on their way downstream. The spill is "voluntary," but since 2006, federal courts have ordered the Corps to spill water over the lower Snake River dams every spring. Three years ago, the Corps, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Northwest office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration proposed a shortened spill period, but after several scientific groups suggested that would be a bad idea, they thought better of it. The agencies have, at least for the time being, stopped fighting over spring spill.
However, there's no sign that the Obama administration has stopped fighting for approval of a Biological Opinion (BiOp) on operation of the Columbia River dams. (A Biological Opinion, issued by a regulatory agency such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, assesses the impact of some action on an endangered species.)
The first Columbia River system salmon population (Snake River sockeye) was listed in 1991. The feds have yet to produce a BiOp that can survive its day in court. U.S. District Judge James Redden tossed the last effort — basically an Obama administration repackaging of a Bush administration plan — in 2011. That document relied on possibly-fictitious habitat improvements to recover endangered salmon, and didn't even consider breaching the lower Snake River dams. Redden ordered the feds to produce a new BiOp by next January 1.
So far, people outside the government say they have no indication that the new plan will differ significantly from what has been found wanting in the past. But that doesn't mean nothing has changed.
Under NOAA's aegis, the William D. Ruckelshaus Center and Oregon Consensus are interviewing "stakeholders" — or, if you prefer, interest group representatives — about salmon and dams. People are being asked what the major issues affecting salmon are and how they'll know recovery when they see it; beyond that, the questions are about process. This marks the first time NOAA has solicited the opinions of interest groups — beyond the traditional insiders — about the longstanding regional conflicts between dams and salmon.
Logically, these discussions will figure into NOAA's preparation of a new BiOp, but that is far from certain. For now, the two processes are being kept apart. The new BiOp would shape operation of the dam system through 2018. The stakeholder process would help shape a discussion of how to operate the dams after 2018. This isn't exactly the fast track. The interviews won't wrap up until the fall. The BiOp is due at the end of the year. Presumably, no one expects the former to have much effect on the latter.
Lewiston Morning Tribune: Analysis questions economics of barging
Kooskia-area man known for his opposition to megaloads says grain shipments costly to taxpayers
Analysis questions economics of barging
By ERIC BARKER of the Tribune The Lewiston Tribune
Monday, January 21, 2013
A critic of the Port of Lewiston says U.S. taxpayers are shelling out $13,000 to $18,000 for every barge that leaves the port and collectively subsidizing farmers who use the river transportation system about $2 million per year.
Linwood Laughy, a Kooskia-area resident who was one of the leading opponents of megaload traffic on U.S. Highway 12, said the cost of keeping the river's shipping channel clear of sand and other sediment is huge compared to the amount of goods transported to downriver destinations like the Port of Portland.
Admittedly a layman when it comes to economic analysis, Laughy nonetheless said his numbers are both solid and shocking.
"I have to admit I was shocked when I first ran the data," he said. "I thought, 'Nah, there is a decimal point off.' But I kept coming up with the same answer and I thought, 'Oh my God, this is pretty damn spendy.' "
Without accepting or rejecting his analysis, which neither has seen, Port of Lewiston manager David Doeringsfeld and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Bruce Henrickson defended the river transportation system.
About 220 barges each loaded with 100,000 bushels of wheat or barley leave the Lewis Clark Terminal at the Port of Lewiston each year, Doeringsfeld said. Based on the current price of wheat that equates to just shy of $1 million per barge, he said.
"You have $220 million just in agriculture exports leaving the Port of Lewiston. The cost of barging over rail is maybe one-third of the cost of rail so that is a significant saving to the area ag community provided by the Columbia-Snake system and that is just simple math."
Henrickson said one barge is equal to about 35 railroad cars and 134 tractor-trailers, saving both wear and tear on the road and reducing the number of fossil fuels burned and the amount of pollution released into the atmosphere.
"We are here to serve the public and help goods move up and down the river, and the river transportation system does have its efficiencies," Henrickson said.
Laughy began his analysis by looking at the recent release of the corps' draft Programmatic Sediment Management Plan, a 20-year outline for dealing with sediment accumulation in lower Snake River reservoirs. The plan calls for long-term actions and for short-term measures such as dredging more than 400,000 cubic yards of sediment from the channel as soon as next winter.
He focused his analysis on the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers where most navigation dredging has occurred. When it comes to goods shipped on the river he excluded the Port of Clarkston, which has not operated its crane in several years. Nor did he look at the Port of Wilma, which sits downstream of where most navigation dredging has occurred.
He calculated that the corps has removed about 3.7 million cubic yards of sediment from the shipping channel in the past 21 years for an average of about 177,950 cubic yards per year. The last time the corps dredged the shipping channel, in 2005, it removed about 400,000 cubic yards at a cost of $5.1 million, or $12.75 a yard. So he figures it will cost about $2.3 million a year to remove 177,950 yards of sediment.
But Laughy said that is just the cost to do the dredging. Add in the cost to perform pre-dredging environmental analysis and the price, by his figuring, climbs to about $3.2 million a year. He used the corps' expenditure of $16 million to write a draft sediment management plan as a basis for his calculation.
In 2011, Laughy said the port shipped about 587,177 tons of grain and other freight downriver. Divide that by $3.2 million and he gets $5.40 a ton. A fully loaded barge weighs about 3,500 tons, so by his calculations it takes $18,900 of dredging per barge. If the cost of environmental analysis is excluded it comes to $13,510.
"The bottom line is perpetual dredging is going to cost the taxpayers a lot of money," he said.
When he accounts for inflation, Laughy said it will cost about $38 million over the next 10 years to maintain the shipping channel. He welcomes others to look at his numbers and tell him where and why he might be wrong.
His analysis doesn't factor other expenses like the cost to maintain locks on Snake and Columbia river dams. Nor does it consider economic benefits to dredging or the costs and benefits of hydropower production at the dams. That is something salmon advocates who support breaching the four lower Snake River dams to recover threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead would like to see.
"Looking at long-term salmon recovery options, we want to see a regional conversation that has all options on the table," said Sam Mace of the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition at Spokane. "Part of that is an honest analysis of what the economic costs are for any options we look at, whether it's options that keep the dams in place versus recovery options that involve removing the four lower Snake River dams."
Dustin Aherin, a rafting outfitter and head of the Lewiston-based group Citizens for Progress, said the numbers should lead people to ask if river transportation is the best way to spend our tax dollars.
"Once we do the cost-benefit analysis of keeping the shipping channel on the status quo, we should realize the Port of Lewiston can fairly easily maintain and, from my perspective, grow from switching from water-based transportation to rail-based," he said.
Daily Astorian: Wyden welcomes federal agency’s plan to seek consensus on saving salmon
Friday, December 14, 2012 Associated Press
The federal agency in charge of saving salmon has hired two consensus- building groups to ask Northwest leaders what long-term steps should be taken to overcome persistent conflicts over restoring dwindling salmon and steelhead runs.
The move was welcomed Thursday by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden in a statement to The Daily Astorian.
NOAA Fisheries Service has hired the Oregon Consensus program at Portland State University and the William D. Ruckelshaus Center in Washington state to interview 150 people. Their initial report is due this summer.
Barry Thom, deputy regional administrator for the agency, said they are looking for a regional picture of what people think it will take to bring about recovery for the fish.
States, Indian tribes, conservation groups, fishermen and farmers have long had different views on how to regulate fishing, dam operations, hatcheries and irrigation withdrawals.
Sen. Wyden has pressed for all groups to work together for some time.
“As I said earlier this year, I have great faith in collaborative discussions and I support stakeholders meeting to talk about an issue that is so vitally important to the Pacific Northwest - the recovery of the salmon,” he said in a statement to the newspaper. “I commend NOAA for taking steps to engage all the interested parties in looking at the long-term recovery of the salmon.”
The interviewers will be neutral, NOAA said, and responses will not be attributed to specific people to promote candid conversations.
The effort, outlined in a NOAA letter to 150 groups this week, will cost more than $200,000, with roughly 50 additional slots set aside for interviews of people mentioned in initial conversations. NOAA wants a basinwide plan that integrates the local recovery plans developed in the Columbia and Snake River basins, Thom said.
A bigger challenge is reaching consensus on the right mix of fishing restrictions, hatchery reforms, dam modifications and habitat restoration to bump 13 runs of salmon and steelhead off the endangered species list.
Interest groups on both sides applauded NOAA’s first step, saying the’d welcome a more comprehensive, collaborative approach to salmon recovery. Lawsuits have driven the process for more than a decade.
A broad approach would expand the focus beyond hydroelectric dams, said Terry Flores, executive director of Northwest River Partners, whose members include utilities, farmers and ports on the Columbia and Snake.
“There are so many things actually going on, if we can understand how they link up that’s a good thing,” she said.
Gilly Lyons, policy director for Save our Wild Salmon, said, “Maybe it will get a more constructive conversation going.”
- Dec 21, 2012 - NOAA takes first step toward building consensus
- Nov 19, 2012 - The Return of the Redfish
- Oct 10, 2012 - Idaho Statesman: Powerful Wyden supports new salmon talks
- May 29, 2012 - Idaho Statesman: The legacy of Lonesome Larry
- May 21, 2012 - Radio Boise: Judge Redden Supports Dam Breaching for Salmon
- Apr 05, 2012 - TrailRunner features The Great Salmon Run
- Jan 05, 2012 - Dammed If We Don't - an essay from Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard
- Nov 22, 2011 - Salmon Groups: Let’s Try Something Totally Different
- Oct 18, 2011 - The Great Salmon Runners Return
- Oct 14, 2011 - Nez Perce Tribe calls on Senate for leadership
- Sep 14, 2011 - The Elwha Project: Lessons for the Lower Snake River
- Aug 18, 2011 - Lewiston Tribune: 'More aggressive' solutions sought for wild salmon
- Jul 27, 2011 - SOS Blog - Salmon, jobs, ESA defended; bad riders linger
- Jun 03, 2011 - Press Release: House Bill To Restore Science and Common Sense to Federal Salmon Efforts
- May 27, 2011 - Different Situations: Grand Coulee Fish Kill and Columbia/Snake River Salmon Spill
- May 10, 2011 - Moving Beyond The Courtroom, Saving Wild Salmon: "The Job Is Not Done"
- May 09, 2011 - Oregonian: Habitat restoration soars on Columbia River, but fish benefits are murky
- May 09, 2011 - Oregonian: Salmon wars return to Portland courtroom - May 7, 2011
- Apr 05, 2011 - The Osprey, January 2011: "Columbia Basin Salmon & Steelhead at Key Crossroad" by Joseph Bogaard
- Apr 04, 2011 - March 15, 2011: Author Steve Hawley releases new book on Columbia-Snake Basin, "Recovering a Lost River"
- Mar 25, 2011 - Spring Salmon Get Smoother Ride over N.W. Dams
- Jan 26, 2011 - NPR WORD CLOUD: The State Of The Union, In Your Words
- Jan 26, 2011 - NPR WORD CLOUD: The State Of The Union, In Your Words
- Jul 13, 2010 - LA Times: "Scientists expected Obama administration to be friendlier"
- Jul 08, 2010 - Huffington Post - Working Snake River: Saving Salmon--and Jobs, by Waylon Lewis
- Jun 07, 2010 - Let's really talk about taking down those Snake River dams, by Daniel Jack Chasan
- Jun 04, 2010 - Steve Wright: NW power boss for life? - Seattle PI Blog by Joel Connelly
- May 26, 2010 - Salmon or political games? Obama administration makes its choice
- May 21, 2010 - Huffington Post: Feds: No major changes for Columbia Basin salmon
- May 21, 2010 - LA Times - Agencies submit new Columbia River salmon plan
- May 21, 2010 - Pulbic News Service: NW Salmon Battle Doesn't Bode Well for Other Endangered Species
- May 19, 2010 - Blogs getting the word out: Obama to release revised Bush salmon plan - May 19th, 2010
- May 10, 2010 - The Idaho Tide - an essay by Steven Hawley for Patagonia
- Apr 26, 2010 - Crosscut: "Feds vs. fish: crying over spilled water" by Daniel Chasan, April 26th, 2010
- Apr 12, 2010 - Oregonian, Scott Learn - April 12, 2010: Science panel opposes Obama plan for Snake/Columbia salmon
- Feb 12, 2010 - SALMON NEWS: Court tells Obama Administration to Go Back and Get it Right.
- Feb 11, 2010 - New York Times: Judge Finds Salmon Plan Flawed
- Feb 11, 2010 - AP Story: Judge gives NOAA Fisheries last chance on salmon
- Dec 29, 2009 - Something's Fishy - by Keivn Taylor, The Pacific Northwest Inlander
- Dec 27, 2009 - E-mails show internal debate over Obama salmon plan
- Nov 24, 2009 - Oregon Flyfishing Blog: The battle for Columbia Salmon comes to a head in Portland courtroom
- Nov 16, 2009 - Idaho Statesman, November 16, 2009: Redden raises new concern in salmon-dam case
- Nov 02, 2009 - The River Why's David James Duncan on water, salmon and the policies that are killing them
- Oct 12, 2009 - News Stories - Columbia & Snake River Salmon in the Media
- Sep 24, 2009 - Crosscut: Obama science goes schizophrenic on salmon restoration
- Sep 01, 2009 - Judge James Redden: Steelhead God
- Jul 06, 2009 - McClatchy: Les Blumenthal - Puget sound orcas could be helped by California
- Jun 22, 2009 - Has the salmon debate changed? - Idaho Statesman - June 21, 2009
- Jun 11, 2009 - PNW Inlander: Into the Breach
- Jun 03, 2009 - Men's Journal - The Last Stand of the American Salmon
- May 31, 2009 - Crapo: Be open to dam breaching - Idaho Statesman - May 30, 2009
- May 28, 2009 - Caddis Fly Blog: Obama Administration Comes to Portland, Talks Salmon
- May 26, 2009 - Clip of Commercial & Sport Fishing Ad in Oregonian
- May 26, 2009 - Commercial and Sport Fishing Ad in Oregonian
- May 19, 2009 - LA TIMES: Snake River dams may have to go
- May 14, 2009 - LEWISTON TRIBUNE: Spring chinook numbers shrink
- May 05, 2009 - High Country News, May 4th, 2009 - Ken Olsen piece: Salmon Salvation
- May 01, 2009 - AP - Matt Daly, May 1st: Feds seek delay in developing NW salmon plan
- Apr 23, 2009 - Crosscut - Obama: Good news for Columbia River salmon
- Apr 07, 2009 - AP: Lower Snake 3rd most endangered river
- Mar 31, 2009 - Spokesman Review: Snake photos reveal pre-dam glory, March 29, 2009
- Mar 10, 2009 - Idaho Statesman: Rocky Barker's Blog, March 7th: In salmon and dams saga, the hard part begins
- Mar 10, 2009 - Idaho Statesman - March 18th, 2009 - Northwest can reduce greenhouse gases, save salmon and create jobs, report says
- Mar 06, 2009 - New York Times: Dams allies have a change of heart
- Mar 06, 2009 - Salmon recovery plan before U.S. judge
- Mar 06, 2009 - Seattle Times: February 10, 2009 - Columbia salmon plan goes before judge for third try
- Mar 06, 2009 - AP: March 6th, 2009: Federal judge faults plan in NW salmon dispute