NOAA's Stakeholder Initiative for the Columbia-Snake Basin
At the end of 2012, the Obama Administration’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the beginning of a Columbia Basin stakeholder process. Phase 1 – a “situation assessment” - will involve about 200 interviews with diverse interests that have a stake in the Columbia and Snake Rivers: salmon, farms, energy, transportation, jobs, and more. The assessment is expected to culminate this summer with a report and recommendations for moving forward with a regional stakeholder dialogue.
This NOAA-initiated process represents the potential for a new promising venue for stakeholders to talk and listen to each other; solicit, identify, and discuss the best, up-to-date scientific and economic information; and work together on a regional plan that tackles the linked issues of salmon, energy, agriculture, and transportation. Learn what salmon and fishing advocates think is most important for a successful stakeholder process.
In recent years, our alliance of salmon advocates - including the Nez Perce Tribe, the State of Oregon, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and others - have sought a new stakeholder-driven approach as the best way to craft a comprehensive, legal, and science-based plan that finally protects and restores endangered Columbia-Snake River salmon and steelhead – and meets the needs of Northwest people. Despite many court victories by salmon and fishing communities, the federal government has failed to deliver an effective, legal, science-based restoration plan. This has wasted time and money, harmed fishing communties, and resulted in persistent uncertainty for Northwest salmon, people, and businesses.
Public and political support for a stakeholder collaboration continues to grow. In 2011, 1,100+ businesses and 50+ members of Congress asked President Obama to begin stakeholder discussions for Columbia Basin salmon. These House members have since been joined by a number of Northwest leaders including Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, all six U.S. senators in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, the Nez Perce Tribe, and tens of thousands of Americans. A number of newspapers, including the New York Times, Oregonian, Daily Astorian, Seattle Times, and Idaho Statesman, have also editorialized in favor of a regional stakeholder dialogue.
While salmon restoration may be at the heart of such a process, salmon are hardly the only resource with a stake in the future of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The fate of Northwest farms, energy, and shipping and transportation are also tied to these rivers. Solutions that work for salmon and salmon people must also work for these other important communities and economic sectors that share the priceless resources of Basin. An authentic and meaningful stakeholder collaboration is the best – and perhaps only – way to identify and implement such shared solutions. We are hopeful that NOAA’s new initiative will become the workspace for that kind of collaboration.
From the Congressional Mailbag - House members' support for NOAA's stakeholder initiative
As you may recall, a couple of months back, Congressman Hastings (R-WA) sent a letter to then-administrator of NOAA Dr. Jane Lubchenco, seeking a halt to the Columbia Basin stakeholder assessment that NOAA initiated in late 2012. The assessment, which is now in full swing and aims to gather diverse stakeholder perspectives on comprehensive salmon recovery issues, has broad support from people, groups, and businesses across the Columbia Basin (minus Mr. Hastings, of course). Most Northwesterners are hopeful that NOAA’s assessment will lead to a meaningful, constructive collaborative process that in turn leads to real, durable solutions and finally helps to resolve the decades-old salmon deadlock.
Now you can add ten West Coast Members of Congress to the chorus of support for NOAA’s stakeholder initiative. Late last week, a group of U.S. Representatives from the Pacific salmon states of Oregon, Washington, and California sent a letter to NOAA’s acting administrator, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, applauding her agency’s decision to begin the process of engaging stakeholders in the challenge of long-term salmon restoration in the Columbia Basin. In their letter, the Members of Congress underscore the importance of broadening the dialogue around salmon restoration, especially in the face of persistently-struggling wild salmon populations and the worsening impacts of climate change. The letter concludes by saying, “There is enormous promise in bringing stakeholders together to collaboratively resolve differences…”
We agree wholeheartedly. SOS and our partners, colleagues, and allies will continue to work hard to help NOAA’s assessment succeed so that we might have a real shot at the promise our congressional leaders describe.
Huge thanks to the signers of the House letter: Reps. Blumenauer (D-OR), McDermott (D-WA), Smith (D-WA), Thompson (D-CA), Eshoo (D-CA), Capps (D-CA), Farr (D-CA), Honda (D-CA), Huffman (D-CA), and Speier (D-CA).
Idahoans set the record straight with letter to Rep. Hastings
From the desk of Greg Stahl, Assistant Policy Director, Idaho Rivers United
A contingent of Idaho residents wrote Congressman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., last week expressing their concern that a recent letter the congressman penned grossly exaggerated the state of salmon and steelhead recovery efforts in the Columbia and Snake rivers.
“If you think salmon are being restored, please consider coming to Idaho and telling that to fishermen and fishing businesses, who continue to struggle season after season as salmon returns stumble and even slip,” the Idahoans wrote. “Moreover, your letter glosses past the fact that salmon recovery is about wild fish, and wild fish returns are at a fraction of what’s needed for recovery.”
The Idaho letter was signed by Idaho Rivers United Executive Director Bill Sedivy, Idaho Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited Board President Bill Boyer, fisheries biologist Bert Bowler, fisherman and Boise dentist Steve Bruce, and fishing guides and rural Idaho business owners Chris Swersey and Gary Lane.
Hastings wrote the outgoing administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco, on Feb. 4 to express that NOAA’s recent initiation of regional stakeholder interviews regarding salmon and steelhead weren’t necessary because endangered fish populations have rebounded. But the opposite is true, the Idahoans wrote.
The official forecast for this year’s wild spring/summer chinook return to the Columbia River mouth destined for the Snake River Basin is only 18,900, and about 60 percent, or 11,000 fish, will reach Lower Granite Dam, they pointed out. The 2012 wild run crossing Lower Granite was 21,000; 2011 was 22,000; and 2010 was 26,000.
New Editorial Support in the Pacific Northwest: It's Time for Stakeholder Talks
Fall 2012 has seen support for regional stakeholder talks grow. Governor Kitzhaber published his op-ed in the Oregonian calling on the Obama Administration to get talks started. Senator Wyden also weighed in.
More recently, a number of regional newspapers have published editorials calling to start a collaborative stakeholder process to resolve the linked issues of salmon, energy, transportation, water policy, and jobs in Columbia and Snake River Basin.
Joining earlier editorials from the Seattle Times (WA) and Idaho Statesman (ID), the Lewiston Tribune (ID), the Daily Astorian, and the Chinook Observer all recently expressed support for a new path forward that brings together the key stakeholders to work directly with each other to seek creative, effective solutions that will restore salmon, create jobs, and invest in our region's energy and transportation infrastructure.
To read these new editorials:
2012 Sockeye returns point to need for stakeholder-driven solutions
From the desk of Greg Stahl, assistant policy director, Idaho River United
The fate and future of Snake River sockeye salmon remains far from certain.
This summer and fall, twenty years after the single sockeye salmon - dubbed Lonesome Larry - returned to central Idaho and brought attention to his species’ dire straits, only 243 adult sockeye completed the long journey from the Pacific Ocean to Redfish Lake (6,547 feet above sea level) at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains. Of those, 173 were released into Redfish Lake to spawn naturally; the rest were taken to hatchery facilities.
The final tally is not yet complete, but biologists estimate about one-third of those 173 returning sockeye were “natural spawners”—fish born in the wild two years ago. The remainder were artificially raised in a captive broodstock hatchery program that has—along with court-ordered spill at dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers—helped prevent the species’ extinction.
Bonneville Power, Uncertainty, and Stakeholder Talks
- From the desk of Pat Ford -
The Bonneville Power Administration, in its new strategic plan, makes a point with which SOS’ fishing, conservation and business members completely agree.
Most readers know that a growing list of salmon state leaders, businesses, and citizens support Columbia-Snake stakeholder talks to create shared solutions for salmon, energy and transportation. One argument made by we who support such talks is the uncertainty affecting those three sectors, and the people in each, as long as no lawful plan to restore Columbia and Snake River salmon exists.
The Bonneville Power Administration said much the same thing, in its own context, in its BPA Strategic Direction, 2012-2017. In the “Endangered Species Responsibilities” section of that document, BPA says:
The uncertainty about whether the court will approve a new BiOp to be produced in 2014, and about the environmental requirements on hydro operations that could result, will continue to create challenges for managing FCRPS operations and planning for future power production, cost and revenue levels.
The FCRPS is the Federal Columbia River Power System on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The BiOp is the Biological Opinion required by the Endangered Species Act for operating the dam system in the presence of endangered salmon and steelhead. The uncertainty Bonneville notes has existed for 13 years, during which three versions of that Biological Opinion have been produced by BPA and other federal agencies. All have been rejected by the U.S. District Court. BPA’s statement refers to the fourth version, to be produced by the end of 2013 -- and which, if it is yet another tweak of a three-time loser rather than a different and much better plan -- is in our view highly likely to be rejected again. Thus prolonging the regional uncertainty.
Our members agree with Bonneville Power that this uncertainty creates major challenges for the federal hydro-system. It does the same for salmon, transportation, and the people and jobs linked together in all three sectors. It’s a big reason why a new approach makes sense. Stakeholder talks offer a way to end or at least greatly narrow the uncertainty now affecting everyone with a stake in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
Congress Calls on Obama To Convene Wild Salmon Solutions Table
Bipartisan group of lawmakers join U.S. businesses and conservation groups in calling for a new approach to salmon restoration
WASHINGTON, DC -- In a letter sent this week, 52 Members of Congress called on President Obama to convene a "solutions table" to help protect and restore endangered wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake River basins of the Pacific Northwest.
With bipartisan support from lawmakers representing 23 states and territories, Congressmen Jim McDermott (D-WA), Tom Petri (R-WI), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) spearheaded the letter to bring together all parties with a stake in salmon restoration to create a broad-based, collaborative process that explores and identifies real salmon recovery solutions.
- Aug 04, 2011 - Columbia River salmon plans: The judge is not amused