Policy and Government

Saving wild salmon involves working with our elected leaders and members of government to create and improve policies that protect and restore wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake River Basins. Read on for more about what this work entails.

Related: Press releases

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Court Rules Columbia-Snake River Salmon Plan Illegal

Window of opportunity to bring stakeholders together to craft regional solution

redden.smA federal district court judge in Oregon recently ruled that the current federal Salmon Plan, also known as the 2010 Biological Opinion for the Columbia and Snake rivers, violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The court held that the federal plan is “arbitrary and capricious” because it relies too heavily on unidentified, non-specific mitigation efforts.

The case (National Wildlife Federation v. National Marine Fisheries Service III), filed on behalf of a diverse group of commercial and sport fishing businesses, conservation organizations, and the State of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe, creates a unique opportunity to bring stakeholders together to craft a solution that will restore the wild salmon and steelhead populations of the Columbia and Snake rivers, which once produced more salmon than any other river system in the world.

What the Ruling Says

The federal Salmon Plan was released in 2010 by the National Marine Fisheries Service and governs the actions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation (which owns and operates most of the federal dams and associated irrigation components) and the Bonneville Power Administration (which markets power from these federal dams). Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that the removal of four dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington provides the best opportunity to recover endangered salmon and steelhead in the Snake River, the federal Salmon Plan called for an “all habitat all the time” approach. The heart of the plan relied on unidentified and uncertain habitat enhancement measures throughout the Basin to make up for the very certain harm caused by the federal dams. Salmon advocates, states, and tribes have contended since a draft of the plan was first released that these measures alone would not be enough to recover wild salmon.


House Bill To Restore Science and Common Sense to Federal Salmon Efforts

Capitol-BuildingTaxpayer groups, fishermen, businesses, clean energy advocates and conservation organizations applaud bi-partisan legislation - H.R. 2111

WASHINGTON— Today, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), joined by 10 additional co-sponsors from across the nation, introduced the Salmon Solutions and Planning Act (H.R. 2111) in the House of Representatives. If passed, the bill would provide Congress and federal agencies with up-to-date, thorough information about how best to protect and restore wild salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia and Snake River Basin while also supporting local communities and saving taxpayer dollars. Download the fact sheet or read the background here.

Rep. McDermott called for an approach that puts all restoration options for Columbia and Snake River salmon on the table, including an analysis of lower Snake River dam removal. Rep. McDermott stated, “The time to act is now. Billions of public and private dollars have been spent on failed recovery projects that put politics over sound science.  Failing to act would further jeopardize our struggling salmon populations that provide thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefit for the nation.  We must work together to create an innovative restoration strategy that saves this national treasure.”


Rep. Markey on BPA: Please Reconsider Proposed Wind Power Policy

Take Action on this issue.

ejm.sittingLast week, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu addressing current issues with Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and its approach to wind energy production and water spill levels in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

In recent months, BPA has claimed that legal constraints for salmon may force it to shut off wind energy production in the Northwest when there’s too much water in the rivers (a so-called “over-generation” situation). BPA has therefore proposed a “Record of Decision on Environmental Redispatch,” which outlines its approach for dealing with the issue. This plan, which BPA will likely implement very soon as spring runoff increases river flows, will undermine renewable energy in the Northwest, threaten salmon, and contradict the policies of the Obama administration and the Department of Energy.

In his letter, Rep. Markey writes that he is aware that changes in power systems will present new challenges to energy managers. However, he asks that BPA utilize resources such as the Department of Energy to create sound policies, instead of shutting off wind. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), as well as Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), also sent letters to BPA recently, asking it to reconsider its Record of Decision and expressing their concern that it would “cause significant problems for renewable energy development in our region.”


Constituent Response from Congressman DeFazio

defazioBelow is Congressman DeFazio's response to this action alert. Though well written, DeFazio response is full of misleading statements and red herring arguments.  We posted this response to his March 2011 oped in the Oregonian which contain many of the same assertions as below.  Read our response to that here.

Dear Constituent,

Thank you for contacting me about your support for salmon recovery in the Columbia Basin.  I appreciate hearing from you on this issue.

Up to 15 million wild salmon and steelhead once returned to the Columbia and Snake Rivers.  Returns fluctuate, sometimes dramatically from year to year, but will probably never consistently reach the level of those historic runs.  The causes of this historic decline are complex.  They include losses from hydroelectric dams, habitat degradation, overfishing, hatchery impacts on wild stocks, and long periods of poor ocean conditions that has reduced the food available for these fish during the years they spend at sea.


Salmon in State of the Union


"We live and do business in the information age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black and white TV. There are twelve different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different entities that deal with housing policy.

"Then there's my favorite example: the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they're in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."

- from President Obama's State of the Union Address, January 25th, 2011.


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Why Snake River salmon and people should matter to Congressman DeFazio

defazioCongressman DeFazio has been a leader on natural resource issues for many years representing Oregon's 4th Congressional District.  As a senior member of both the Natural Resources Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he can play an important role in bringing about lasting recovery of wild salmon in the Snake River Basin and the communities that depend on them.

Read the letter to Rep. DeFazio from college students and young people in Oregon's 4th District.

Oregon's natural treasures

The vast Snake River basin includes much of northeast Oregon, including the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and several wild rivers like the Grande Ronde and Imnaha.  This river corridor is part of what was once the world's most productive salmon and steelhead watershed – upwards of 30 million salmon returned to the Columbia-Snake Basin every year with nearly half of those calling northeastern Oregon, southeastern Washington, and central Idaho home.These fish feed natural and human communities, support good jobs, and provide world-renowned fishing opportunities.


Save Our wild Salmon is a diverse, nationwide coalition working together to restore wild salmon and steelhead to the rivers, streams and marine waters of the Pacific Northwest for the benefit of our region's ecology, economy and culture.




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