New Hope for Snake/Columbia's Wild Salmon and Steelhead: It's Time to 'Free the Snake' and Restore Endangered Salmon!
In May 2016, the U.S. District Court in Oregon rejected the government's plan for operating federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers because the plan – the 2014 Biological Opinion (or “BiOp”) – failed to protect endangered wild salmon and steelhead. The Court concluded the federal agencies responsible for the plan (NOAA Fisheries, the Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bonneville Power Administration) violated both the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The Court said “[f]or more than 20 years, . . . the federal agencies have ignored [prior court opinions] and have continued to focus essentially on the same approach to saving the listed species — . . . [t]hese efforts have already cost billions of dollars, yet they are failing.”
Three different federal judges over two decades have now rejected five consecutive plans to lawfully manage the Columbia/Snake River dams. ESA-listed salmon continue to face a high risk of extinction. In the federal judiciary’s words, “the system literally cries out for a major overhaul.
This ruling swept aside the government’s long-standing strategy to avoid meaningful changes to the existence and operations of federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Judge Simon’s strongly-worded opinion found multiple substantive violations of the ESA and procedural violations of the NEPA. The Court 2016 order requires the agencies’ next plan (due 2018) to substantially strengthen the all-important jeopardy standard, address climate impacts on fish, reduce its heavy reliance on habitat restoration and finally confront the significant salmon mortality caused by federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
To address the NEPA violation, federal agencies must began work in Fall 2016 with Scoping/Public Input - the first step toward producing an EIS that fully, fairly and transparently analyzes the latest scientific and economic information on Columbia/Snake salmon and dams and carefully consider all recovery alternatives – including the costs, benefits and tradeoffs of lower Snake River dam removal. Keeping the agencies honest and on track in this process presents a major challenge for advocates, and will require vigilance and oversight by us, media and our elected leaders in the Northwest and in Washington D.C.
In July 2016, the Court required (1) the National Marine Fisheries Service to produce a new lawful Columbia Basin Salmon Biological Opinion by Dec. 2018; and (2) the “Action Agencies” (BPA, Army Corps, Bureau of Reclamation) to produce a lawful NEPA-compliant DEIS by March 2020 and FEIS by March 2021.
Columbia/Snake Salmon NEPA Analysis Public Scoping Comment Period: A Summary
The three Northwest Dam Agencies – Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently completed the first phase – Public Scoping and Official Comment Period - of a court-ordered NEPA EIS Analysis. On May 4, 2016, United States District Court in Portland rejected the federal government’s 2014 Salmon Plan for the Columbia/Snake River Basin based on violations of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. This was the fifth federal salmon plan for the Columbia/Snake Rivers to be rejected now by three judges across twenty years.
Following on his May ruling, presiding judge Michael Simon ordered NOAA-Fisheries in July to produce a new, legally-valid and science-based Salmon Plan (or Biological Opinion) by December 2018. He also ordered the Northwest dam “Action Agencies” to complete a full, fair, and comprehensive NEPA Review and produce an Environmental Impact Statement that updates critical information and considers all reasonable salmon restoration measures, including the removal of the lower Snake River dams – an option that the agencies have steadfastly avoided even analyzing for two decades.
400,000 citizens from Northwest and nation submit comments in support of lower Snake River dam removal!
Despite efforts by the “Action Agencies" to bury an important public comment process amidst a chaotic election cycle and the year-end holidays, conservation and fishing advocates did an excellent job generating media coverage, contacting elected officials, and organizing comment and turnout at more than a dozen public meetings in support of restoring wild salmon populations and removing the four costly dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington.
The board and staff of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition send out a huge "THANK YOU!" to all the organizations, businesses and individuals that mobilized during the recent NEPA Public Comment Period - to spread the word, make presentations, educate friends and family, submit comment, attend rallies and meetings, and much more!
More than 2,000 citizens attended rallies to "Free the Snake" and the agencies’ public meetings and close to 400,000 people from across the Northwest and nation submitted their official public comments expressing support for the restoration of a freely-flowing lower Snake River as a critical part of any legally valid salmon protection plan in the Columbia Basin.
-- View photos from the public meetings (and the 2016 Free the Snake Flotilla) across the region here. --
The Agency-led NEPA Public Scoping and Comment Period closed on February 7, 2017 but only after significant numbers of citizen comments, detailed policy comments and dozens of media stories. More than 50 stories and opinion pieces appeared last fall and early winter in print, online and on television and radio and included salmon, orca, fishing, and river advocates' concerns and perspectives. There were also numerous citizen and community leader meetings with state and federal elected officials.
-- See a listing of and links to the media coverage of the Fall 2016-Winter 2017 NEPA Review Public Scoping and Comment Period here. --
The Cleanest Line: Free the Snake and Restore Salmon to Honor Treaty Rights
Julian Matthews, February 3, 2017
Salmon have sustained the Nimiipuu people since time began for us. Nimiipuu means “the people” and is one amongst many names the Nez Perce call themselves.
Take Action Now! This is our last chance to tell federal agencies to include Snake River dam removal as they begin to look at salmon restoration options in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The deadline to comment is February 7.
The loss of healthy numbers of salmon returning up the Columbia and Snake Rivers to our traditional lands in Idaho and Oregon, where we have fished and hunted for generations, has been devastating to our people, families and culture. In recent decades, our tribe has dedicated resources, including expert fisheries biologists and attorneys, to restore the fisheries and fight for legal protections in court. But it has not been enough. For salmon to return in the numbers needed to sustain our tribe, our rivers and the lands around us, the four lower Snake River dams must be removed.
Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment is a grassroots organization committed to protecting tribal treaty rights within our original ceded lands and usual and accustomed places. We also believe that with our treaty rights comes treaty responsibilities: the need to protect our salmon, wildlife, rivers and lands so that they survive and thrive for the next generations. We work with tribal members and environmental allies to push for the restoration of wild salmon to our home lands.
Right now, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore wild salmon to the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia and Snake Rivers and their tributaries—once the greatest salmon rivers in the world. We can do this by removing four outdated and expensive dams on the lower Snake River.
View the entire post here on Patagonia's The Cleanest Line Blog
Learn more about Nimiipuu - Protecting the Environment here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: More than 250,000 Urge Feds to Do More to Save Salmon
Feb. 1, 2016
Greg Stahl, Idaho Rivers United, , (208) 343-7481
Aaron Altshuler, Patagonia, , (503) 525-2552
Bill Arthur, Sierra Club, , (206) 954-9826
Joel Kawahara, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (206) 406-7026
Todd True, Earthjustice, , (206) 343-7340 x1030
Joseph Bogaard, Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, , (206) 300-1003
More than 250,000 Urge Feds to Do More to Save Salmon
Their message: Lower Snake River dam removal demands full, fair consideration in the upcoming EIS
PORTLAND, OR— Along the West Coast and nationally, conservation groups, fishing business associations and others have tallied the public input to date that their members have submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers in response to a federal court order requiring a new plan for protecting Columbia and Snake River salmon from harmful dam operations, and the results are impressive.
KING5-TV: Snake River dams examined after decades of lawsuits
LEWISTON, Idaho – Scientists and power providers are scrutinizing the Snake River dams to see just how damaging they are for wild fish, in accordance with a federal judge’s orders. For the first time in about a decade, the public has a chance to weigh in on the future of the dams.
It’s an issue that’s captivated the attention of former Idaho Fish and Game biologist, Steve Pettit. He spent years fishing the Clearwater River on his lunch breaks, so if anyone’s watched the waters change over 40 years, Petit says he has.
“It’s pathetic. Can’t buy a fish,” he said.
Pettit blames a bad memory that’s stuck like a persistent nightmare. He was there in 1975 when the Lower Granite dam held back the Snake River for the first time.
“I had tears running down my face most of the day,” he said.
***View the TV story online here.***
The Daily News: Removing dams could affect Cowlitz industry, electric rates
Marissa Luck, January 16, 2017
(Eds' note: This informative article contains a number of misleading quotes and assertions by defenders of the lower Snake River dams - including, for example, the impact of dam removal on regional electrical rates, the "need" for natural gas plants to replace lost hydro-power, or the implications of dam removal on transportation and the opportunities to replace waterborne navigation with salmon-friendly alternatives like rail. For more information specifically on transportation issues associated with lower Snake River dam removal, see this new piece by Idaho resident Lin Laughy: Many Dollars and Little Sense. Salmon and fishing advocates welcome a fact-based debate on the actual costs and benefits of the lower Snake River dams - and the opportunity to work with people in the region to develop an effective plan to replace the dams' modest services with alternatives in order to restore the river and its endangered salmon populations. -jb)
Longview, WA. Even though the four Lower Snake River dams are nearly 300 to 400 miles away, breaching them could unleash far-reaching effects on Cowlitz County. Local electricity rates, port industries and fisheries could all be impacted by removing the dams. And that’s exactly what some want.
Advocates say removing the dams is the fastest and best way to save wild salmon runs, which would be a boon for both commercial and recreational fishers here and across the region.
“It just seems like it’s common sense. We’re facing climate change. We’re facing ocean acidification. But the one thing we can do to give them a shot against all these other factors is opening up this huge piece of habitat,” said Sam Mace, outreach director for Save Our Wild Salmon.
But Cowlitz PUD officials, like other utilities in the region, worry that removing the dams would drive up electricity rates for their customers. Paper mills like Norpac contend it could hike up their costs, making their products less competitive on the global market. And several area grain mills — including one in Longview and two Kalama — would have to find a new ways to get white wheat from Idaho, possibly driving up costs.
Whether dam removal would increase or decrease greenhouse gas emissions remains a hotly-debated concern.
- Jan 19, 2017 - Many Dollars and Little Sense: Barging on the Lower Snake River
- Jan 11, 2017 - The Daily Astorian: Debate spills over the dams
- Jan 11, 2017 - Associated Press: Environmental groups want work halted on Snake River dams
- Jan 09, 2017 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Advocates Ask Court to Safeguard Salmon Ahead of Federal Planning Process
- Jan 02, 2017 - Oregonian: Shielded Native American sites thrust into debate over dams
- Dec 21, 2016 - For Immediate Release: New Report Highlights 10 Wildlife Conservation Priorities for the Trump Administration
- Dec 12, 2016 - Chinook Observer Editorial: Say no to standing by as salmon go extinct
- Dec 09, 2016 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Fishy end run
- Dec 08, 2016 - Daily Astoria Editorial: ‘God Squad’ is the wrong idea for endangered species
- Dec 08, 2016 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Irrigators want dams off endangered list
- Dec 07, 2016 - Idaho Statesman: Lower Snake River farmers seek federal ruling to allow Idaho salmon to go extinct
- Dec 07, 2016 - Idaho Statesman Guest Opinion: Stop studying the studies; breach dams and save the salmon
- Dec 07, 2016 - NW Fishletter #364: NWEC Panel Explores Replacing Power From Lower Snake River Dams (2)
- Dec 07, 2016 - Daily Astorian Guest Column: An opportunity to push for salmon recovery
- Dec 04, 2016 - Tri-City Herald Guest Opinion: Costly dams are harmful to salmon, tribes, and taxpayers
- Dec 03, 2016 - KING 5 TV: Future of Snake River dams under microscope
- Dec 03, 2016 - KNKX - 88.5 FM: Feds Discussing Snake River Dam Removal At Public Meeting In Seattle
- Dec 03, 2016 - The Columbian: Hearings next week on Columbia River salmon recovery
- Dec 03, 2016 - Idaho Statesman Editorial: Future of Idaho’s wild salmon can’t be sacrificed for any other interest
- Nov 15, 2016 - Spokesman Review: Big crowd turns out in Spokane to talk about Lower Snake River dams
- Nov 07, 2016 - Oregonian: Judge's order revives movement to remove Snake River dams
- Nov 05, 2016 - CBB: Science Review Of Salmon Survival Study: Snake River Fish Not Meeting Smolt-To-Adult Return Goals
- Oct 29, 2016 - Seattle Times: Another Puget Sound orca dies; hope dim for her calf (2)
- Oct 24, 2016 - Spokesman Review: Pressure mounts on Lower Snake dams as fish runs sag
- Oct 23, 2016 - EarthFix: Taking Down Snake River Dams: It's Back On The Table
- Oct 23, 2016 - Spokesman Review Guest Opinion: We can restore salmon and have carbon-free energy
- Oct 18, 2016 - Seattle Times: Environmental effects of Columbia, Snake river dams scrutinized
- Oct 06, 2016 - The Seattle Weekly: Washington’s Big Dam Climate Nightmare
- Sep 30, 2016 - Call to Action: Court-Ordered Columbia-Snake Salmon NEPA Review: Phase 1 – Public Hearings this Fall!
- Sep 30, 2016 - For Immediate Release: Feds Announce Hearings for Public to Weigh in on Lower Snake River Dam Removal
- Sep 28, 2016 - Seattle Times: Hydropower isn’t carbon neutral after all, WSU researchers say
- Sep 15, 2016 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Pro-salmon advocates plan to launch flotilla on Snake River on Saturday
- Aug 31, 2016 - For Immediate Release: 33 organizations ask federal agencies to commence NEPA public comment period after Jan. 1, 2017
- Aug 25, 2016 - Spokesman Review: About 35 percent of Snake River sockeye presumed dead
- Aug 17, 2016 - OPB Radio: Lawsuit Aims To Lower Columbia And Snake River Temperatures For Salmon
- Aug 17, 2016 - Spokesman Review: Hot water poses ongoing threat to Columbia River salmon, groups say
- Aug 17, 2016 - Spokesman Review: Hot water poses ongoing threat to Columbia River salmon, groups say (2)
- Aug 04, 2016 - Boise Weekly: Dams, Megawatts and Poached Salmon
- Aug 02, 2016 - Oregonian Guest Opinion: We can have a clean energy future and wild salmon
- Jul 04, 2016 - New York Times Editorial: The Salmon's Swim for Survival
- Jul 01, 2016 - CBB: Steps Taken To Cool Warming Lower Snake, Reduce Thermal Blocks As Large Basin Sockeye Return Heads Upstream
- Jun 27, 2016 - Oregonian Guest Opinion: Renewed optimism for salmon recovery
- Jun 25, 2016 - WAPO: Obama’s advisers just dismantled a key myth about the future of clean energy
- Jun 25, 2016 - CBB: BiOp Challengers Urge Court To Reject Feds’ Five-Year Timeline
- Jun 25, 2016 - CBB: Hot Summer. Will Sockeye Get Slammed Again?
- Jun 22, 2016 - Idaho Statesman Guest Opinion: Time for Congress to act on dams, Idaho sockeye
- Jun 21, 2016 - May 4, 2016 U.S. District Court Ruling: Background and Links
- Jun 12, 2016 - Guest Columnist Linwood Laughy: Snake Oil on the Lower Snake
- Jun 02, 2016 - Idaho Mountain Express Editorial: Stop dance of death
- Jun 02, 2016 - Idaho Mountain Express: Middle Fork could regain role as salmon nursery
- May 22, 2016 - New York Times Opinion: Unplugging the Colorado River
- May 22, 2016 - Crosscut: Judge: Failed salmon restoration has cost billions
- May 15, 2016 - Seattle Times Op-Ed: Federal court decision is a critical opportunity for salmon, energy and communities
- May 14, 2016 - Spokesman op-ed: Dam removal has new energy
- May 11, 2016 - East Oregonian Our view: Feds are running out of half measures
- May 11, 2016 - Lewiston Tribune editorial: What you hear today, you'll hear tomorrow
- May 04, 2016 - For Immediate Release: U.S. District Court sides with wild salmon and communities
- Apr 25, 2016 - Idaho Statesman: Warm Pacific continues to chop salmon numbers, affecting Idaho, Northwest
- Apr 14, 2016 - Seattle Times: Last year’s heat wave doomed nearly all Okanogan sockeye salmon
- Apr 01, 2016 - CBB: Army Corps Responds to Fish Advocates - Report underway on 2015 Columbia/Snake warm water, fish die-off
- Jan 05, 2016 - LMT: Idaho landscape could be safe haven for native fish
- Jan 04, 2016 - CBB: 2015 Smolt-To-Adult Return Data For Columbia/Snake Salmon, Steelhead
- Dec 09, 2015 - Idaho Statesman op-ed: Record salmon runs actually a decline
- Oct 28, 2015 - Scientists to Administrator Will Stelle: NOAA must act on climate change and salmon
- Oct 28, 2015 - Columbia Basin Bulletin: Preliminary 2015 Spring Juvenile Survival Estimates Through Snake/Columbia River Dams Dismal
- Aug 28, 2015 - Al Jazeera: Salmon in Idaho Becoming Endangered
- Aug 03, 2015 - Seattle Times Guest Opinion: Dead Salmon, climate change and Northwest dams
- Aug 03, 2015 - Idaho Statesman Guest Opinion: Sockeye death toll a predictable disaster
- Jul 17, 2015 - Idaho Statesman: Biologists bring sockeye into Idaho on trucks to get them out of hot water
- Jun 23, 2015 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Today's Federal Court Hearing on Salmon
- Jun 22, 2015 - Seattle Times: Columbia River Basin plan to restore fish runs faces legal challenge
- Jun 09, 2015 - For Immediate Release: NOAA’s new plan for Snake River Sockeye falls short
- Dec 10, 2014 - High Country News: The great salmon compromise
- Aug 05, 2014 - Seattle Times letters to the editor: Salmon recovery: Don’t cut back on dam spills
- Jul 28, 2014 - Idaho Statesman's Rocky Barker: Renewing Idaho's wild salmon and wild rivers
- Jul 21, 2014 - Idaho Statesman: Sockeye draft recovery plan shows just how far away success is
- Jun 26, 2014 - Daily Astorian Editorial: Drug addiction and salmon policy
- Jun 20, 2014 - Los Angeles Times: Groups sue U.S. agencies, saying plan to protect salmon falls short
- Jun 20, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Federal salmon plan contested again
- Jun 17, 2014 - For immediate release: Federal agencies squander chance for progress on Northwest salmon
- Jun 04, 2014 - The Fight for a Lawful Salmon Plan
- Jun 04, 2014 - Columbia Basin Bulletin: Groups Challenge In Ninth Circuit BPA’s Record Of Decision
- Mar 28, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Corps to kill fish-noshing birds
- Mar 25, 2014 - Science panel’s review provides pathway to expanded spill test
- Mar 05, 2014 - House bill aims to restore science and common sense to federal salmon efforts: Salmon advocates applaud introduction of study legislation
- Feb 09, 2014 - Daily Astorian: Editorial: Latest salmon deal is disappointing (again)
- Feb 05, 2014 - Spill test is positive response to climate change
- Jan 27, 2014 - Idaho Statesman Guest Opinion: Idaho and its chinook deserve an expansion of water spills
- Jan 24, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune Editorial: Feds’ predictable fish plan keeps careers going
- Jan 23, 2014 - Idaho Stateman: Salmon, dams will head back to court
- Jan 20, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Latest NOAA opinion on salmon goes back to well
- Jan 17, 2014 - Press Release: Feds squander chance for progress on salmon
- Jan 15, 2014 - Scientists to Obama Administration: "New" Federal Salmon Plan a Bust
- Dec 15, 2013 - Spokesman-Review Guest Opinion: Columbia River plan fails to protect salmon
- Dec 02, 2013 - Oregonian Guest Opinion: Federal Government doing too little to help Columbia salmon
- Sep 25, 2013 - Tacoma News Tribune Op-Ed: There's good news and bad news for Northwest's salmon
- Sep 18, 2013 - LMT Editorial: Feds' fifth fish recovery plan invites a sixth
- Sep 17, 2013 - Idaho Statesman: Feds reject potential way to help salmon
- Sep 15, 2013 - Daily Astorian Editorial: Same old story (2)
- Sep 12, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Feds deal blow to Nez Perce Tribe, salmon advocates (2)
- Jul 16, 2013 - Twenty-one groups and business associations ask Bonneville Power Administration to reverse course on planned rollbacks of salmon spill
- Jun 22, 2013 - A Brief History of “spill”
- May 22, 2013 - All Scientists Are Saying Is…"Give (More) Spill A Chance."