Our Year-End Update
Where we've been in 2015 and where we're heading in 2016
2015 has been extraordinarily busy. Our work to protect and restore abundant wild salmon and steelhead populations to the Columbia Basin have expanded support, developed new strategic partnerships, and mobilized public calls for urgent, meaningful changes to how we manage the (too) many dams and reservoirs in this once-fabled salmon watershed. We're holding the federal government accountable, defending hard-won protections and pressing for more. The legal, scientific, economic and moral case today for restoring a freely flowing lower Snake River and modernizing the U.S. - Canada Columbia River Treaty is stronger than ever.
SOS' continued success depends upon your generous support.
Please help us hit the ground running in 2016!
Make your tax deductible donation here before December 31st.
Despite tremendous progress this year, much work remains. With your support, SOS will continue to ensure critical near-term protections such as court-ordered spill while we also steadily build the public pressure and political leadership necessary to achieve two of our nation’s most ambitious and consequential salmon, steelhead and river restoration initiatives: lower Snake River dam removal and a modernized Columbia River Treaty.
Restoring the lower Snake River by removing its four high-cost, low-value dams will bring life back to what was once one of North America’s most productive salmon landscapes. It will reconnect the critical missing link in a unique ecosystem that bridges the marine waters of the Pacific Coast and 5000+ miles of mostly pristine rivers and streams in the wild lands of central Idaho and eastern Oregon and Washington.
A restored lower Snake River will enrich the Northwest’s ecology by restoring wild salmon and steelhead’s productive access to ancestral spawning gravels and allow them to rebuild their populations and finally swim out from under the dark shadow of extinction. Restoring these remnant populations will boost 130+ other fish and wildlife species including endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales who have sustained themselves for tens of thousands of years on the Northwest’s largest and fattiest (and most delicious) of all salmon – the chinook.
A free-flowing Snake River will also re-establish an essential pocket of resilience in the larger Columbia basin as a much-needed defense against intensifying climate impacts.
And done right, a restored lower Snake River will also strengthen this region’s economy. It will create new jobs in clean energy and outdoor recreation, and invest in a more reliable and efficient transportation network while saving taxpayer and ratepayer dollars.
With your support, SOS will continue to advance our two-pronged approach: secure and defend the protections wild salmon and steelhead need now while we make steady stepwise progress toward the big, comprehensive solutions that over the longer-term can restore wild salmon and killer whales and rebuild communities and economies.
Working with our member groups, business partners and tribal and other allies, we’ve covered a lot of ground in 2015. Below is a partial list of what we’ve accomplished with your help, followed by a glimpse of what we aim to do in the new year.
Challenging a failed status quo:
- SOS is coordinating member groups (in partnership with the Nez Perce Tribe and State of Oregon) to challenge the federal agencies’ 2014 Columbia-Snake Salmon Plan. The feds’ previous four plans have all been invalidated in U.S. District court. We now await the next verdict.
- SOS is holding NOAA accountable for its ineffective, ad hoc response to the entirely predictable lethally warm waters in Columbia and Snake River reservoirs last June and July. And we need to prepare now for Summer 2016.
Correcting the record on economics and energy:
- This summer, we hired economist Tony Jones of Rocky Mountain Econometrics to produce the Lower Snake River Navigation Study. It documents the status and trends of an unsustainable barging corridor – with costs rising, usage and benefits falling - and rail lines stepping in to meet a local need.
- SOS also helped develop and promote a new report by the NW Energy Coalition. Restoring wild salmon: Power system costs and benefits of lower Snake River dam removal shows how we can affordably replace the dams’ hydroelectricity with energy efficiency and clean, carbon-free renewable sources.
- Early this year, SOS helped found the Orca-Salmon Alliance (OSA)– a new coalition of regional and national conservation organizations working to restore endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales and the chinook salmon upon which they depend.
- With OSA in October, we hosted renowned scientist and award-winning author Dr. Carl Safina in Seattle for a media tour, meetings with elected officials, and as our keynote speaker at “Intertwined Fate: The Orca-Salmon Connection in the Northwest” that drew a sold-out audience of more than 300 people.
Educating and mobilizing:
- Also in October with Friends of the Clearwater, Patagonia, the Nez Perce Tribe and other allies, SOS co-organized the “Free the Snake!” Rally - a gathering of 350+ people on the banks of the lower Snake – with a boat rally on the water next to Lower Granite Dam.
- Throughout the year, SOS has helped generate and/or inform dozens of media stories regionally and nationally – bringing much-needed attention to the orca-salmon connection, deteriorating dam economics, devastating hot water fish kills in June and July, growing public support for dam removal, and much more.
Moving the politics:
- This year, SOS has organized and participated in 15+ meetings with U. S. Senators, Representatives, Administration officials or their staff in the Northwest and Washington D.C. to press our case for an effective, lawful federal salmon strategy in the Columbia Basin that includes restoring the lower Snake River and modernizing the U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty.
- SOS continues to coordinate the “U.S. Caucus” – a collaboration of fishing and conservation organizations and the faith community working closely with Columbia Basin Tribes to modernize a 50-year-old Treaty by adding ‘ecosystem health’ as a new top priority and purpose. After nearly two years of closed-door deliberations in Washington D.C., we are seeing signs of progress. This spring for example the State Department announced its decision to include a new “ecosystem” purpose in its negotiation position. More recently, its newly-hired lead negotiator has begun visiting the Northwest to meet with our Caucus and other stakeholders, and with sovereigns.
With your generous support before Dec. 31st, SOS will defend our successes to date and build new pressure for long-lasting solutions to restore river health and rebuild the Northwest’s irreplaceable fish and wildlife populations and the rich cultures and economies that rely upon them. With your help, we’ll continue to mobilize people and build political support for a lawful salmon plan, a freely flowing lower Snake River and a modernized Columbia River Treaty by:
- Continuing to hold the federal agencies’ accountable to the law and to challenge their deeply flawed salmon strategies.
- Insisting that NOAA develop and implement effective measures to protect Columbia Basin fish from the types of hot water incidents that killed more than 250,000 salmon this last year.
- Fighting to expand spring/summer spill in 2016 and keep migrating salmon in rivers - and out of barges.
- Exposing the lower Snake River dams’ unsustainable economics.
- Deepening our alliance with orca advocates on projects that protect our iconic and imperiled Northwest treasures: wild salmon and killer whales.
- Promoting river and salmon restoration (and economic development) success stories such as the Elwha, White Salmon, and Sandy Rivers.
- Connecting with farmers and other Northwest stakeholders to explore opportunities and common ground.