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Where we candidly and accurately react to and reflect on current affairs impacting wild salmon and salmon jobs.  And of course, never missing the opportunity to point out that those obsolete dams on the Lower Snake River need to go. Bloggers include SOS staff, with occassional guest entries.


 

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Unsustainable and indefensible: the new economics of the lower Snake River dams

blog 120131 Port of Lewiston 3The lower Snake River dams were originally conceived to establish a 140-mile shipping corridor that would connect to the Columbia River and create an inland seaport in Lewiston, Idaho. The dams’ energy capacity was added late in the planning process by the Army Corps of Engineers to increase the project’s overall economic benefit and improve the chances of Congressional approval - and appropriations.

While the dams’ anticipated impacts on salmon and steelhead populations was held understood - they were opposed at the time by all Northwest state’s fish and game departments - the net positive economic benefit asserted by the Army Corps went largely unchallenged in the 1960s. More recently, however, steeply declining salmon populations, a series of expensive, ineffective and illegal federal salmon plans, a determined lack of transparency by the federal dam agencies, and the rapidly changing market forces in the energy and transportation sectors has attracted new scrutiny about these four dams overall costs and benefits. Independent observers and a series of reports in recent years makes it increasingly difficult to justify further investment in these high-cost, low-value dams on the lower Snake.

Built last century, the four lower Snake River dams produce less than 1,000 aMW of electricity each year - about 4 percent of the Northwest’s supply. More recently, the cost of wind and solar has plummeted, the capacity from renewables expanded, and the regional electric grid is rapidly evolving. We’ve become much smarter about how we generate, consume, and manage electricity.

Our region, for example, has recently developed 2,500+ average megawatts (aMW) from wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy - with more currently under construction. And we’ve saved 5,500+ aMW of electricity in the last several decades through smart investments in energy efficiency. While the cost of renewables has plunged, the cost of maintaining and operating these four aging federal dams is steadily rising.

Trends on the transportation corridor are similar: decreasing demand and increasing costs. Shipping on the lower Snake River has declined by 70% in the last two decades. Private/public investments are expanding rail networks locally and helped facilitate a shift by many farmers and other businesses to transport their products by train rather than barge.

Our greatest asset is our ingenuity and ability to adapt. We don't have to choose between wild salmon, affordable low-carbon energy and reliable transportation. Working together, the people of the Northwest and the nation can craft a lawful, scientifically- and economically-sound plan that restores our wild salmon and meets the energy and transportation needs of the region’s communities.


Wild Salmon, Clean Energy and Climate Change

WindmillsThe survival of wild salmon depends on healthy rivers and a healthy climate. Our increasingly dynamic energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors offers effective, affordable solutions for replacing the lower Snake River dams’ ‘extinction energy’ with conservation and new renewables. No new greenhouse gases required. We don't have to choose between affordable, carbon-free energy and healthy populations of wild salmon.

The four lower Snake River dams produce less than 1,000 aMW of electricity each year - about 4 percent of the Northwest’s supply. Even as capacity from renewables expands, the regional electric grid is rapidly evolving, and we’re becoming smarter about how we generate, consume, and manage electricity.

Our region, for example, has recently developed more than 2,500 average megawatts (aMW) from wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy. Another 1,500 aMW is currently under construction or in the final stages of approval. In addition, we’ve saved - effectively created – more than 5,500 aMW of electricity in the last several decades through smart investments in energy efficiency. And while the cost of renewables has plunged in recent years, the cost of maintaining these four aging federal dams has been steadily rising.

In the years ahead, the portfolio of low carbon resources will continue to expand and be more than able to meet the capacity and energy needs of the Northwest, while also providing among the lowest electric rates in the nation.

Our greatest asset is our ingenuity and ability to adapt. We don't have to choose between restoring the ancient cycle of salmon – a defining feature of the Pacific Northwest way of life – and having low-carbon energy.  We can and should have both.

Protecting Orca by Restoring Salmon

orca.kitsapThe Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) of Washington State's Puget Sound amd Salish Sea are a critical part of the Northwest ecosystem and economy. They are apex predators, much-loved icons of Washington State that generate tens of millions in tourism dollars every year. They are also officially "endangered" and face severe threats to their survival. A top problem for the SRKWs is a lack of an adequate prey base - chinook salmon.

Despite having learned much about these imperiled whales in the last decade, NOAA has made precious little actual progress to meet their essential needs. The Columbia Basin — and the Snake River watershed in particular — that holds the greatest promise for restoring significant numbers of chinook in the near-term. For this reason, orca scientists and advocates increasingly support calls to remove the four costly lower Snake River dams.

No other Northwest chinook restoration proposal offers such potential. Investing in a healthy, free-flowing lower Snake River will restore salmon’s spawning access to more than 5,500 high-quality river and stream miles and produce hundreds of thousands more chinook to help southern resident killer whales survive and rebuild. Save Our wild Salmon looks forward to the opportunity to work with the people of Washington State and beyond to craft a plan that restores the Snake River and serves orcas, salmon and our communities on both sides of the Cascades.

Read the articles and posts for additional information on how these two critical Northwest species are connected.


Columbia River Treaty

columbiagorge

Save Our wild Salmon is helping coordinate Northwest conservation, fishing and business groups to modernize the U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty of 1964 for today’s – and tomorrow’s – Northwest.  The Columbia is changing on both sides of the border – hotter water, thinner snowpacks, changing flows.  Salmon and people, waters and economies, are suffering the effects, with much worse to come.  Healthy ecosystem function should join power production and flood management as a core Treaty purpose.  In the Northwest, ecosystem function is economic function.


 

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