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.

KUOW: Northwest Tribes Say Salmon Recovery Is Requirement Based On Treaty Rights   

By Emily Schwing <>

Mar 17,  2017  


The state of the salmon population in Idaho’s Snake River was the topic of a passionate discussion during a conference hosted by members of Idaho’s Nez Perce Indian tribe over the weekend.

The Northwest used to be home to some of the world’s largest salmon runs.

“The resiliency of the salmon is so beautiful that I liken the Native American to the salmon story,” Nez Perce Tribe Chairman Mary Jane Miles said.

Miles spoke on a panel discussion hosted by Nimi’ipuu Protecting the Environment, a tribal group advocating for the environment. They highlighted the impact of four federal dams on salmon runs in the lower Snake River.

According to Nimi’ipuu, the federal government has invested more than $15 billion on salmon recovery, without success.

The group said dam removal is necessary to restore the salmon population under sovereign rights outlined in a treaty signed in 1855 between the Nez Perce Tribe and the U.S. Government.

Columbia Basin Bulletin: Listed Steelhead Move Into New Habitat Created By Removal Of Obsolete Dam On Idaho's Potlatch River

March 24, 2017

maxresdefaultWhen a couple of concerned citizens witnessed adult steelhead spawning downstream from an obsolete dam outside a small town in Idaho, local agencies came together to remove the fish barrier and restore passage to historic spawning grounds unattainable for nearly 100 years.

City of Troy’s mayor Ken Whitney said Cliff Swanson lives on the outskirts of this Latah County town 11 miles from Moscow. In 2012 he said Swanson took pictures of steelhead spawning below the Dutch Flat Dam.

Swanson said a friend called and told him about seeing the steelhead. He took several still photos and video of spawning fish downstream from the dam.

Swanson’s video got a lot of attention, Whitney said, and a movement to take out the dam got momentum.

According to Brian Knoth, who oversees Potlatch River steelhead monitoring and evaluation for Idaho Fish and Game, the dam was also on his agency’s radar. Since 2005, Knoth said his agency has been monitoring wild steelhead due to their threatened status on the Endangered Species List. He said the Potlatch’s steelhead is an important component of the larger Clearwater River population, a tributary to the Snake River. Knoth said Fish and Game surveys identified Dutch Flat as a barrier to steelhead passage blocking adults from spawning grounds and juveniles from getting downstream.


Lewiston Tribune: Tribal, nontribal activists gather for environmental conference

ERIC BARKER of the Tribune

Mar 18, 2017

tribalconference2 copyJulian Matthews believes that when diverse groups of people unite over a common cause, their voices can be amplified and their power magnified.

The Pullman man - also a Nez Perce tribal member and board member of Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment - pointed to the fight against megaloads on U.S. Highway 12 and the more recent battle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline as examples. In each case, tribal members worked side by side with nontribal conservationists to stop powerful corporate interests, and the treaties between tribes and the U.S. government proved to be powerful tools.

But Matthews said that doesn't mean they always understand each other, including the significance of tribal treaty rights. In an effort to increase understanding and to inspire more environmental activism by native and non-native people, his group organized a two-day conference, "Treaty Rights in a Changing Environment," at the Red Lion Hotel in Lewiston. The conference started Friday and continues today."We wanted to work on building networks and relationships with other people and groups so they understand where we are coming from and we understand where they are coming from," he said.

Michael Preston of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe near the Shasta Dam and Redding, Calif., said the environment is a common cause in which all people have a vested interest.


Canoe & Kayak Guest Opinion: It’s Time To Remove The Lower Snake River Dams

Longtime river guide Curt Chang argues that freeing the Snake would boost Idaho's economy and salmon runs

March 08, 2017

By Curt Chang

ChangI have spent my life on rivers, starting as one of the original dory guides in the Grand Canyon with legendary river-runner and conservationist Martin Litton. It was 1972 when Martin heard there was an opportunity to get a commercial permit in Hells Canyon. Martin asked me if I would like to take some boats and a crew to Idaho to start a second area of operation for Grand Canyon Dories, now O.A.R.S. Dories. We made an initial trip up to scout the Snake River through Hells Canyon, and before long, we’d started up the Idaho operation out of my family’s backyard in Clarkston, Washington. We then moved across the Snake River to Lewiston, Idaho, just as Lewiston was being transformed into West Coast’s most inland seaport thanks to four new, large dams on the lower Snake River. Those dams transformed the rivers where we were running dory trips. Salmon populations plummeted and 70 named rapids disappeared underneath the four new reservoirs.

To Martin, to compromise was to lose. While many of us don’t draw as hard of a line, here on the lower Snake we have compromised too much for the last half century. Luckily, with rivers and salmon, we can make amends.

The growing call to remove the lower four Snake River dams represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring about the largest river restoration project in history. And the benefits of a restored lower Snake River help more than just our salmon.


Media Advisory
: Court Hearing in Portland on Columbia/Snake Salmon - 3.9.2017

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Rebecca Bowe | | 415-217-2093

Court to Consider Immediate Measures to Bolster Salmon Survival
Plaintiffs seek increase in spill and a halt to spending on dam infrastructure that may soon be retired
The U.S. District Court in Portland, Ore. will hear arguments on March 9 concerning Earthjustice’s motion for injunction seeking short-term measures to improve salmon survival rates. The requested actions will better provide safe passage for juvenile salmon navigating the heavily dammed Columbia River Basin during the spring migration season, and help ensure a level playing field as federal dam operators consider the possibility of dam removal on the lower Snake River.

Plaintiffs seek an increase in water releases over spillways at the four lower Snake River and four lower Columbia River dams, to improve survival rates for endangered juvenile salmon bound for the ocean. They also request a moratorium on tens of millions in capital spending on projects that would extend the life of dams on the lower Snake River that may soon be retired. Federal agencies are currently in the process of conducting a NEPA/EIS Review in the wake of a May 2016 ruling that rejected a previous salmon protection plan as illegal under NEPA and the Endangered Species Act. Agencies must consider lower Snake River dam removal as an alternative under that analysis.

Earthjustice, together with the State of Oregon and with support from the Nez Perce Tribe, is representing a host of fishing groups and conservation organizations including the National Wildlife Federation, Save Our Wild Salmon, Pacific Coast Federation of Fisheries Associations, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Idaho Rivers United, and more.

U.S. District Court of Portland hears motion for injunction.

Thursday, March 9, 2017. 10 a.m.

Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, Room 1327
1000 Southwest Third Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97204-2944


Columbia/Snake Salmon NEPA Analysis Public Scoping Comment Period: A Summary

February 2017

1comment cards.webThe 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.


More Articles...

  1. Feb 12, 2017 - 400,000 citizens submit comments calling for removal of the lower Snake River dams
  2. Feb 05, 2017 - Patagonia Blog: The Cleanest Line - Free the Snake and Restore Salmon to Honor Treaty Right
  3. Feb 01, 2017 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: More than 250,000 Urge Feds to Do More to Save Salmon
  4. Jan 27, 2017 - KING5-TV: Snake River dams examined after decades of lawsuits
  5. Jan 19, 2017 - The Daily News: Removing dams could affect Cowlitz industry, electric rates
  6. Jan 19, 2017 - Many Dollars and Little Sense: Barging on the Lower Snake River
  7. Jan 11, 2017 - The Daily Astorian: Debate spills over the dams
  8. Jan 11, 2017 - Associated Press: Environmental groups want work halted on Snake River dams
  9. Jan 09, 2017 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Advocates Ask Court to Safeguard Salmon Ahead of Federal Planning Process
  10. Jan 02, 2017 - Oregonian: Shielded Native American sites thrust into debate over dams
  11. Dec 21, 2016 - For Immediate Release: New Report Highlights 10 Wildlife Conservation Priorities for the Trump Administration
  12. Dec 12, 2016 - Chinook Observer Editorial: Say no to standing by as salmon go extinct
  13. Dec 09, 2016 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Fishy end run
  14. Dec 08, 2016 - Daily Astoria Editorial: ‘God Squad’ is the wrong idea for endangered species
  15. Dec 08, 2016 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Irrigators want dams off endangered list
  16. Dec 07, 2016 - Idaho Statesman: Lower Snake River farmers seek federal ruling to allow Idaho salmon to go extinct
  17. Dec 07, 2016 - Idaho Statesman Guest Opinion: Stop studying the studies; breach dams and save the salmon
  18. Dec 07, 2016 - NW Fishletter #364: NWEC Panel Explores Replacing Power From Lower Snake River Dams (2)
  19. Dec 07, 2016 - Daily Astorian Guest Column: An opportunity to push for salmon recovery
  20. Dec 04, 2016 - Tri-City Herald Guest Opinion: Costly dams are harmful to salmon, tribes, and taxpayers
  21. Dec 03, 2016 - KING 5 TV: Future of Snake River dams under microscope
  22. Dec 03, 2016 - KNKX - 88.5 FM: Feds Discussing Snake River Dam Removal At Public Meeting In Seattle
  23. Dec 03, 2016 - The Columbian: Hearings next week on Columbia River salmon recovery
  24. Dec 03, 2016 - Idaho Statesman Editorial: Future of Idaho’s wild salmon can’t be sacrificed for any other interest
  25. Nov 15, 2016 - Spokesman Review: Big crowd turns out in Spokane to talk about Lower Snake River dams
  26. Nov 07, 2016 - Oregonian: Judge's order revives movement to remove Snake River dams
  27. Nov 05, 2016 - CBB: Science Review Of Salmon Survival Study: Snake River Fish Not Meeting Smolt-To-Adult Return Goals 

  28. Oct 29, 2016 - Seattle Times: Another Puget Sound orca dies; hope dim for her calf (2)
  29. Oct 24, 2016 - Spokesman Review: Pressure mounts on Lower Snake dams as fish runs sag
  30. Oct 23, 2016 - EarthFix: Taking Down Snake River Dams: It's Back On The Table
  31. Oct 23, 2016 - Spokesman Review Guest Opinion: We can restore salmon and have carbon-free energy
  32. Oct 18, 2016 - Seattle Times: Environmental effects of Columbia, Snake river dams scrutinized
  33. Oct 06, 2016 - The Seattle Weekly: Washington’s Big Dam Climate Nightmare
  34. Sep 30, 2016 - Call to Action: Court-Ordered Columbia-Snake Salmon NEPA Review: Phase 1 – Public Hearings this Fall!
  35. Sep 30, 2016 - For Immediate Release: Feds Announce Hearings for Public to Weigh in on Lower Snake River Dam Removal
  36. Sep 28, 2016 - Seattle Times: Hydropower isn’t carbon neutral after all, WSU researchers say
  37. Sep 15, 2016 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Pro-salmon advocates plan to launch flotilla on Snake River on Saturday
  38. Aug 31, 2016 - For Immediate Release: 33 organizations ask federal agencies to commence NEPA public comment period after Jan. 1, 2017
  39. Aug 25, 2016 - Spokesman Review: About 35 percent of Snake River sockeye presumed dead
  40. Aug 17, 2016 - OPB Radio: Lawsuit Aims To Lower Columbia And Snake River Temperatures For Salmon
  41. Aug 17, 2016 - Spokesman Review: Hot water poses ongoing threat to Columbia River salmon, groups say
  42. Aug 17, 2016 - Spokesman Review: Hot water poses ongoing threat to Columbia River salmon, groups say (2)
  43. Aug 04, 2016 - Boise Weekly: Dams, Megawatts and Poached Salmon
  44. Aug 02, 2016 - Oregonian Guest Opinion: We can have a clean energy future and wild salmon
  45. Jul 04, 2016 - New York Times Editorial: The Salmon's Swim for Survival
  46. Jul 01, 2016 - CBB: Steps Taken To Cool Warming Lower Snake, Reduce Thermal Blocks As Large Basin Sockeye Return Heads Upstream
  47. Jun 27, 2016 - Oregonian Guest Opinion: Renewed optimism for salmon recovery
  48. Jun 25, 2016 - WAPO: Obama’s advisers just dismantled a key myth about the future of clean energy
  49. Jun 25, 2016 - CBB: BiOp Challengers Urge Court To Reject Feds’ Five-Year Timeline
  50. Jun 25, 2016 - CBB: Hot Summer. Will Sockeye Get Slammed Again?
  51. Jun 22, 2016 - Idaho Statesman Guest Opinion: Time for Congress to act on dams, Idaho sockeye
  52. Jun 21, 2016 - May 4, 2016 U.S. District Court Ruling: Background and Links
  53. Jun 12, 2016 - Guest Columnist Linwood Laughy: Snake Oil on the Lower Snake
  54. Jun 02, 2016 - Idaho Mountain Express Editorial: Stop dance of death
  55. Jun 02, 2016 - Idaho Mountain Express: Middle Fork could regain role as salmon nursery
  56. May 22, 2016 - New York Times Opinion: Unplugging the Colorado River
  57. May 22, 2016 - Crosscut: Judge: Failed salmon restoration has cost billions
  58. May 15, 2016 - Seattle Times Op-Ed: Federal court decision is a critical opportunity for salmon, energy and communities
  59. May 14, 2016 - Spokesman op-ed: Dam removal has new energy
  60. May 11, 2016 - East Oregonian Our view: Feds are running out of half measures
  61. May 11, 2016 - Lewiston Tribune editorial: What you hear today, you'll hear tomorrow
  62. May 04, 2016 - For Immediate Release: U.S. District Court sides with wild salmon and communities
  63. Apr 25, 2016 - Idaho Statesman: Warm Pacific continues to chop salmon numbers, affecting Idaho, Northwest
  64. Apr 14, 2016 - Seattle Times: Last year’s heat wave doomed nearly all Okanogan sockeye salmon
  65. Apr 01, 2016 - CBB: Army Corps Responds to Fish Advocates - Report underway on 2015 Columbia/Snake warm water, fish die-off
  66. Jan 05, 2016 - LMT: Idaho landscape could be safe haven for native fish
  67. Jan 04, 2016 - CBB: 2015 Smolt-To-Adult Return Data For Columbia/Snake Salmon, Steelhead
  68. Dec 09, 2015 - Idaho Statesman op-ed: Record salmon runs actually a decline
  69. Oct 28, 2015 - Scientists to Administrator Will Stelle: NOAA must act on climate change and salmon
  70. Oct 28, 2015 - Columbia Basin Bulletin: Preliminary 2015 Spring Juvenile Survival Estimates Through Snake/Columbia River Dams Dismal
  71. Aug 28, 2015 - Al Jazeera: Salmon in Idaho Becoming Endangered
  72. Aug 03, 2015 - Seattle Times Guest Opinion: Dead Salmon, climate change and Northwest dams
  73. Aug 03, 2015 - Idaho Statesman Guest Opinion: Sockeye death toll a predictable disaster
  74. Jul 17, 2015 - Idaho Statesman: Biologists bring sockeye into Idaho on trucks to get them out of hot water
  75. Jun 23, 2015 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Today's Federal Court Hearing on Salmon
  76. Jun 22, 2015 - Seattle Times: Columbia River Basin plan to restore fish runs faces legal challenge
  77. Jun 09, 2015 - For Immediate Release: NOAA’s new plan for Snake River Sockeye falls short
  78. Dec 10, 2014 - High Country News: The great salmon compromise
  79. Aug 05, 2014 - Seattle Times letters to the editor: Salmon recovery: Don’t cut back on dam spills
  80. Jul 28, 2014 - Idaho Statesman's Rocky Barker: Renewing Idaho's wild salmon and wild rivers
  81. Jul 21, 2014 - Idaho Statesman: Sockeye draft recovery plan shows just how far away success is
  82. Jun 26, 2014 - Daily Astorian Editorial: Drug addiction and salmon policy
  83. Jun 20, 2014 - Los Angeles Times: Groups sue U.S. agencies, saying plan to protect salmon falls short
  84. Jun 20, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Federal salmon plan contested again
  85. Jun 17, 2014 - For immediate release: Federal agencies squander chance for progress on Northwest salmon
  86. Jun 04, 2014 - The Fight for a Lawful Salmon Plan
  87. Jun 04, 2014 - Columbia Basin Bulletin: Groups Challenge In Ninth Circuit BPA’s Record Of Decision
  88. Mar 28, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Corps to kill fish-noshing birds
  89. Mar 25, 2014 - Science panel’s review provides pathway to expanded spill test
  90. Mar 05, 2014 - House bill aims to restore science and common sense to federal salmon efforts: Salmon advocates applaud introduction of study legislation
  91. Feb 09, 2014 - Daily Astorian: Editorial: Latest salmon deal is disappointing (again)
  92. Feb 05, 2014 - Spill test is positive response to climate change
  93. Jan 27, 2014 - Idaho Statesman Guest Opinion: Idaho and its chinook deserve an expansion of water spills
  94. Jan 24, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune Editorial: Feds’ predictable fish plan keeps careers going
  95. Jan 23, 2014 - Idaho Stateman: Salmon, dams will head back to court
  96. Jan 20, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Latest NOAA opinion on salmon goes back to well
  97. Jan 17, 2014 - Press Release: Feds squander chance for progress on salmon
  98. Jan 15, 2014 - Scientists to Obama Administration: "New" Federal Salmon Plan a Bust
  99. Dec 15, 2013 - Spokesman-Review Guest Opinion: Columbia River plan fails to protect salmon
  100. Dec 02, 2013 - Oregonian Guest Opinion: Federal Government doing too little to help Columbia salmon
  101. Sep 25, 2013 - Tacoma News Tribune Op-Ed: There's good news and bad news for Northwest's salmon
  102. Sep 18, 2013 - LMT Editorial: Feds' fifth fish recovery plan invites a sixth
  103. Sep 17, 2013 - Idaho Statesman: Feds reject potential way to help salmon
  104. Sep 15, 2013 - Daily Astorian Editorial: Same old story (2)
  105. Sep 12, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Feds deal blow to Nez Perce Tribe, salmon advocates (2)
  106. Jul 16, 2013 - Twenty-one groups and business associations ask Bonneville Power Administration to reverse course on planned rollbacks of salmon spill
  107. Jun 22, 2013 - A Brief History of “spill”
  108. May 22, 2013 - All Scientists Are Saying Is…"Give (More) Spill A Chance."
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.




 NewsletterTake Action Now


Seattle, WA
811 First Ave.,
Suite 305
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone:  206-300-1003
Spokane, WA
P.O. Box 67
Spokane, WA 99210
Phone:  509-747-2030

Contents copyright ©2012-2015 Save Our wild Salmon Website by Starlight Internet Services