News Articles

Important articles published by national and regional news outlets related to wild salmon restoration in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

Dam breaching proponents addressed salmon’s role in tribal history and culture

Pasco AOR photo by Megan Mack 'All Our Relations' ©Megan Mack

By Kathy Hedberg

Oct 1, 2023

It was a spirit-filled gathering under a pavilion at Hells Gate State Park in the drizzling rain Saturday morning to focus energy toward breaching the lower Snake River dams and restoring the fish.

“This is a big critical issue with our people,” said Julian Matthews, one of the organizers of Saturday’s event.

“We have a treaty right. The 1855 treaty was signed by the U.S. government and is still in place. … We have the right to take salmon from there. We’re not doing it for commercial fisheries; we’re not doing it to make money. It’s about being part of our culture; our history.”

The gathering was the next-to-the-last stop for the Native Organizers Alliance, an environmental justice grassroots group from throughout the Northwest that began its campaign Monday to demonstrate the broad support for the removal of the dams and restoration of a free-flowing lower Snake River. The campaign included stops across the Pacific Northwest and featured an 8-foot steel sculpture by Lummi Nation member A. Cyaltsa Finkbonner.

About 80 people milled around the pavilion, sipping hot coffee and eating muffins before the ceremony began, many carrying signs urging the immediate removal of the dams.

After the Nez Perce elders were seated, Lucy Simpson lit a smudge pot and moved about the circle, whisking light smoke over the onlookers. Then David Scott offered a prayer to “Creator, Grandfather,” accompanied by his brother, A.K. Scott on an elk skin drum and chanting quietly.

“We come today thinking not of ourselves,” David Scott prayed, “but the restoration of terrible events that happened long ago. We come here to honor, Grandfather, the salmon and all living species.”

Dorothy Wheeler and her husband, Francis Sherwood, also offered a prayerful song and then a family of totem carvers from the Lummi Nation, including two little boys, sprinkled tobacco on the ground as an offering for the salmon.

“They’ve gone many miles for us,” Wheeler said of the totem carvers. “These are very special people — they’re very spiritual people. They’re helping us with the things that we’re doing. We need to keep teaching our families the ways.”

Passing on these ancient traditions to younger generations, in fact, seemed to be the main point of Saturday’s gathering. Matthews pointed out a dugout canoe a group of fourth and fifth graders have been working on and noted that it’s the first dugout canoe made on the Nez Perce reservation in more than 100 years.

“We’re trying to figure out what happened,” Matthews said. “Why did they quit carving canoes? … I think the thing that we’re really doing, what we’re talking about, is revitalizing this part of our culture.

“These issues are really critical. We have to keep pushing. Like with the kids, we’re teaching them stuff; how to carve canoes, how to carve paddles. We’re trying to bring back this part of our culture.

“The dams have affected our livelihood … and that’s one reason, the main reason I’m doing this now. I don’t want those youngsters we work with not to be able to take salmon from this river at all 20 years from now.

“I don’t want money, I want fish,” Matthews said. “I want salmon.”


elwha.chinook8.2015Sept. 27, 2023

By Orion Donovan Smith, 853-2524

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed a landmark memorandum ordering federal agencies to do their part to restore salmon runs in the Columbia and Snake rivers and honor the U.S. government’s treaty obligations to Northwest tribes.

“It is time for a sustained national effort to restore healthy and abundant native fish populations in the Basin,” Biden said in the document, adding that it is his administration’s policy to work with Congress, tribes, states, local governments and other stakeholders “to pursue effective, creative, and durable solutions” to help salmon, steelhead and other native fish recover.

Coming less than a week after the administration committed $200 million over 20 years to reintroduce salmon above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams as part of a settlement agreement with Upper Columbia tribes, Wednesday’s move was hailed by tribal leaders and environmental groups.

“We commend President Biden for his commitment to salmon recovery and focusing the full power and scope of the federal government on this issue,” Corinne Sams, chair of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said in a statement. “He has sent a clear message throughout the federal government that business as usual is no longer acceptable. Never before has the federal government issued a Presidential Memorandum on salmon. This is historic.”

The directive gives all relevant federal agencies – including the Interior Department, Bonneville Power Administration, Army Corps of Engineers and others – 120 days to review their programs affecting native fish. If any of those programs are not consistent with the legal responsibilities the federal government has under treaties it signed with Northwest tribes in 1855, which guaranteed Indigenous people the right to fish in all their “usual and accustomed” places, the agencies must align them with Biden’s stated goal of restoring salmon to abundance.

Chief James Allan, chairman of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, said in a statement that the tribe is encouraged by Biden’s commitment and plans to hold his administration to its word.

“We have said for years that there are many things the federal agencies can do to help these fish populations but they have flat out ignored us or refused to act,” he said. “Hopefully this marks a change in federal policy for the better, and we will continue pushing for full accountability and recovery.”

The Nez Perce Tribe, in a statement, commended the president’s pledge to respect the 1855 treaties, in which the Nez Perce and other tribes ceded some 60,000 square miles of what are now Washington, Oregon and Idaho in exchange for hunting and fishing rights.

“By publicly acknowledging that healthy and abundant salmon runs are essential, we know the Biden Administration is prioritizing the needs of the Northwest and working to uphold our Treaty,” the tribe said. “We are relying on these Federal Agencies to take the necessary, urgent actions to restore salmon populations in the Columbia Basin. We are committed to working with the Biden Administration in partnership as we move forward.”

Biden’s memorandum directs the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget to develop an “intergovernmental partnership” between the federal government, the Columbia Basin tribes and the states of Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana.

Biden’s move drew mixed reactions from Congress, where the region’s lawmakers largely agree on efforts to help salmon recover but have clashed – not necessarily along party lines – over proposals to breach four dams on the Lower Snake River.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., welcomed the memorandum and pledged to use her position as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee to continue investing in salmon recovery.

“I’m really glad President Biden and his administration are taking salmon recovery and Tribal treaty rights seriously and working from every angle to restore fish populations in the Columbia River Basin, while meeting the region’s resiliency needs,” Murray said in a statement. “Salmon are absolutely essential for our environment, our economy, and Pacific Northwest Tribes–and ensuring we are making real federal investments in salmon recovery has long been a top priority for me.”

Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Central Washington Republican and a vocal opponent of dam breaching, accused the Biden administration of using the announcement as a smokescreen “to give the perception that residents and stakeholders are being heard” while planning to breach the dams. The administration has so far avoided taking a public stance on the deeply contentious issue.

“While there may not be explicit recommendations to breach the Lower Snake River Dams in this memorandum, that is the goal of this Administration,” Newhouse said in a statement. “This announcement is bureaucracy at its worst and the fact remains that these dams are vital to our economy, our efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and the ability to send our commodities overseas.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Spokane Republican who also opposes removing the dams, expressed measured optimism about Biden’s order.

“While I’m pleased to see the Biden administration finally acknowledge the irreplaceable benefits the Columbia-Snake River System provides to Eastern Washington and the entire Pacific Northwest, they cannot continue to ignore the science and facts,” she said in a statement, pointing to recent improvements in certain salmon runs. “Our mitigation efforts are leading to positive results that we can – and will – build on if this administration is willing to work together to achieve measurable and defined shared goals.”

Biden nodded to the benefits dams provide – in the form of hydropower, irrigation and barge transportation – committing to “secure a clean and resilient energy future for the region” and “support local agriculture and its role in food security domestically and globally.” At the same time, he pledged to invest in the communities that depend on the dams “to enhance resilience to changes” in the dams’ operation, which suggests support for a long-term plan proposed by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, to make dam removal viable.

Along with Biden’s memorandum, the Interior Department announced $3.6 million in new funding for tribal fish hatcheries in the region. That adds to hundreds of millions in previously announced funding for hatcheries, removing culverts and other barriers to fish migration, habitat cleanup and more.
Todd Myers, environmental director at the Washington Policy Center, a think tank that opposes dam removal, said “there’s a lot to like” about all of those investments, although he wants to see lower overall federal spending to reduce the nation’s budget deficit.

Myers said he hopes the 120-day review process will produce recommendations such as culling the seals and sea lions that feast on salmon and whose numbers have exploded in recent decades, partly as a result of legislation Congress passed in 1972. On the other hand, he worries the review could result in the administration endorsing dam breaching.
Kurt Miller, executive director of Northwest RiverPartners, an association of public and cooperative power utilities that opposes dam breaching, called Wednesday’s announcement “bittersweet.”

“Northwest RiverPartners applauds the Biden Administration for going on record as recognizing the unique and essential role the region’s hydroelectric dams, including the Lower Snake River Dams, play in helping us meet our clean energy, climate, economic, and salmon recovery objectives,” Miller said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the Memorandum released today builds on and extends a flawed process that has denied affected stakeholders and the public a meaningful role.”

Conservation and fishing groups, which largely support dam breaching as the centerpiece of a broader range of actions to help salmon recover, welcomed Biden’s declaration while emphasizing that it didn’t meet all their demands.

“With this directive, the President is sending a clear message to the Bonneville Power Administration, Army Corps of Engineers and other relevant agencies and leaders within the federal government that business-as-usual is no longer acceptable,” Tanya Riordan, policy and advocacy director of Washington-basd Save Our wild Salmon, said in a statement.

Mitch Cutter, salmon and steelhead conservation associate at the Idaho Conservation League, said in a statement, “We applaud President Biden and his Administration for saying the right things, now it’s time to do the right things.”

A coalition of environmental groups engaged in ongoing litigation with the federal government over salmon in the Columbia Basin applauded the announcement while making clear that it didn’t fully resolve the issues in the long-running legal fight.

“We’re heartened by the commitment the Biden Administration is demonstrating in this Memorandum to honor obligations to Tribal Nations and to restore Columbia River salmon to a healthy abundance,” Amanda Goodin, an attorney at Earthjustice involved in the litigation, said in a statement. “Now we need to finish the job. NOAA Fisheries has already concluded that the best and only certain way to recover Snake River salmon to a healthy abundance is to breach the four Lower Snake River dams.”

In August, the coalition and the Biden administration agreed to extend a deadline to reach a settlement in that litigation until the end of October. At least one more major announcement affecting salmon in the Columbia Basin is expected by then.

Orion Donovan Smith's work is funded in part by members of the Spokane community via the Community Journalism and Civic Engagement Fund. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.

sockeye salmon Neil Ever OsborneSep. 27, 2023
By Lynda V. Mapes

President Biden on Wednesday called for abundant and healthy salmon runs in the Columbia River Basin, in a move long-awaited by conservationists and tribes around the region.

The presidential memorandum directs all federal agencies to use their existing authorities and resources to assess whatever more may be needed to restore wild fish populations in the basin, which spans six states, including Washington and Idaho, to help ensure that the U.S. upholds its treaty and trust responsibilities to tribes.

The order comes as negotiations are nearing an Oct. 31 deadline between the federal government and tribes on operations of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The fight over protections for salmon is one of the longest running environmental disputes in the region.

A stay of litigation over operations of the dams will expire at the end of next month.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Shannon Wheeler, chairperson of the Nez Perce tribe, which is a party to the litigation and has long sought removal of dams on the Lower Snake to rebuild salmon runs. “He is saying he is going to honor treaty rights and salmon recovery. He is stepping up to the plate and saying we are going to do this, it is what needs to be done.”

In the order Biden acknowledged that since the signing of treaties with tribes in the region in 1855, dam construction, overfishing and population growth have changed the ecosystem of the basin and severely depleted wild fish populations. That has in turn substantially harmed the tribes’ ability to exercise their rights to fish in the Columbia and Snake, reserved when they ceded millions of acres of their lands in treaties with the federal government.

“The Presidential Memorandum announced today supports tribally led conservation efforts and helps address injustices of the past,” noted a fact sheet from the federal Office of Environmental Quality.

The order builds on prior statements and commitments from the Biden administration to restore wild salmon and other native fish to the Columbia Basin. While the words “dam removal” does not appear in the document, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in its most recent scientific report on the basin found dam removal on the Lower Snake River, among other actions, would be essential to restore healthy salmon runs to the river.

The order also calls for pursuing solutions that restore fish populations while delivering affordable and reliable clean energy, and supporting the local agriculture economy. Agencies are on notice to review their actions and budgets to achieve those goals and were given a deadline of up to 220 days.

Kurt Miller, executive director of Northwest RiverPartners, which represents river users, was unimpressed by the announcement. “I am a polite person; I am not here to rain on anyone’s parade,” Miller said. “But does the memorandum specify what to do if some of these goals are conflicting?”

Its unclear how the tension between dam removal and other goals of the order can work out practically, Miller said. He noted that order stops short of calling for dam removal, adding, “It’s a nice announcement but I don’t know that it changes anything from where we were 24 hours ago from where we were in the debate.”

The Columbia and Snake were once among the mightiest salmon producers in the world. But the combined effects of habitat destruction, overfishing and climate change are overwhelming the abilities of one of the most adaptive and powerful species on earth, which is able to overcome even the effects of volcanic eruptions and survive.

At the time of treaty signing, there were up to 10 million salmon a year returning to the Columbia and Snake. Today, even in a relatively good year returns are a fraction of that, and some tributaries in the interior Columbia Basin see only a few dozen salmon come home.

“It is time,” Biden stated in the order, “for a sustained national effort to restore healthy and abundant native fish populations in the Basin.”

coulee.copyPresident Biden commits $200 million to reintroducing salmon, steelhead between Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams

By Eric Barker Of the Tribune
Sep 22, 2023

The Biden administration committed the federal government to backing a decadeslong, tribal-led effort aimed at undoing the extinction of salmon and steelhead in the upper Columbia River.
The $200-million, 20-year deal announced Tuesday will facilitate the reintroduction of the anadromous fish upstream of Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams. It is the first substantive agreement to emerge from mediated talks between the administration and a coalition of Columbia River tribes and fishing and conservation groups that are suing the federal government over the damage its dams have wrought on salmon and steelhead.

The deal with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the Spokane Tribe of Indians is specific to the upper Columbia River and has no bearing on talks over the Snake River and its threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead runs. Those discussions, which include proposals to breach one or more of the lower Snake River dams, are scheduled to sunset at the end of next month.

The Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams, built between the 1930s and 1950s, are the workhorses of the Columbia River Hydropower System. But they were erected without fish ladders and wiped out salmon and steelhead runs that spawned from Hangman Creek, a tributary of the Spokane River, all the way into British Columbia, Canada. The loss of those runs deprived inland rivers of marine-derived nutrients and left a painful hole in tribal cultures and economies. Hemene James, vice-chairperson of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, spoke of the decades-old loss during a signing ceremony in Washington, D.C. Not only did the tribes miss the fish for the sustenance they provided but also for the way they brought people together when the salmon returned.

“We gathered with our different clans,” he said. “We gathered with our neighboring tribes. It was a joyous occasion. Marriages were made. You (saw) family you didn’t get to see. Political deals were done. The plan for the next year was set in motion. All of that and much more was taken away when those fish were impeded from coming upriver.”

According to terms of the deal, the federal government will fund and help facilitate Phase 2 of the tribal effort with $200 million that will come largely from the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal agency that markets power produced at the dams. During Phase 1, the tribes studied the quality of habitat upstream of the dams and found it can support tens of thousands of adult chinook and sockeye salmon. Phase 2, already underway, has included test releases of juvenile salmon in places like the Spokane River that have shown promising results. A small percentage of those fish have survived the downstream journey through Grand Coulee, Chief Joseph and eight other dams on the Columbia River. A few of them have even returned upriver and made it as far as Chief Joseph Dam.

“I often say there is much to be gained when we respect and integrate Indigenous knowledge into our initiatives, and this celebration is no exception,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland at the signing ceremony. “Today’s agreement marks the beginning of a new kind of partnership that will lay the groundwork for healthy and abundant salmon populations throughout the upper Columbia basin.”

Shannon Wheeler was not at the ceremony but the chairperson of the Nez Perce Tribe said the deal makes him happy. Wheeler has been one of the most high profile leaders in the effort to restore the lower Snake River through dam breaching.

“It’s a great step in the right direction for our brothers and sisters up there up in the upper Columbia River who have been without salmon for at least 80 years or so,” he said. “Getting that reintroduction past Joe and Coulee is definitely a big win for the environment, the system and the tribes that will be doing that work.”

Wheeler said he and others are still pushing to reach an agreement of similar or greater magnitude on the Snake River where wild fish are struggling but can still access their spawning habitat. The mediated talks have been going on for about two years and put a temporary halt to the latest iteration of a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s attempt to balance operation of the hydrosystem with efforts to recover the threatened and endangered fish.

“We are still in good conversations that are meaningful,” he said. “We are just looking for what’s next — preventing the extinction of salmon in the lower Snake River being a priority of the administration as well.”

Salmon Run Aug. 2023

Aug. 31, 2023
By Orion Donovan Smith

After nearly two years of negotiating, the Biden administration and a coalition of Northwest tribes, environmental groups and other parties agreed Thursday to continue talks that could lead to breaching the Lower Snake River dams in an effort to help endangered salmon recover.

The two sides asked a federal court in Oregon for a 60-day extension of a stay in litigation that was set to expire at the end of the day. The relatively short extension suggests the two sides may be nearing a breakthrough after more than two decades of legal battles over the operations of federally managed dams in the Columbia Basin and their impact on salmon and steelhead runs.

“Salmon are in crisis, and we owe it to them to focus on durable solutions – including restoring the Lower Snake River – that work for the fish, honor our Treaty, and build a stronger, more resilient Northwest,” Shannon Wheeler, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe, said in a statement.

The latest chapter in the legal saga began when the Nez Perce Tribe, along with the state of Oregon and a coalition of conservation groups led by Earthjustice, sued the Trump administration over a 2020 plan released by federal agencies for managing dams and protecting salmon.

The Spokane and Coeur d’Alene tribes are also among the litigants that agreed to continue negotiating. The federal agencies sued by the fish advocates are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Bonneville Power Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

After President Joe Biden took office, a federal judge in Portland granted a joint request by the two sides in October 2021 to pause litigation and let them try to reach a settlement in the long-running dispute. In August 2022, the parties agreed to extend the stay for a year.

In a statement Thursday, the White House Council on Environmental Quality said the government had agreed to continue talks “to develop a long-term, durable path forward that restores healthy and abundant salmon and other native fish to the Columbia River Basin, honors long-standing commitments to Tribal Nations, delivers affordable and reliable clean energy, and meets the many resilience needs of the region.”

The salmon and steelhead that migrate from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the Columbia Basin have declined in numbers in the decades since the federal government built dams to harness the rivers’ power, but the dams’ defenders argue that technological advances let enough fish pass the dams that breaching them is unnecessary. The dams also provide benefits by generating electricity, irrigating Eastern Washington farmland and letting barges travel between the Pacific and Lewiston, Idaho.

Advocates of dam breaching, meanwhile, argue the dams have such a dramatic impact on fish – including long-term effects on salmon that manage to get past the dams – that restoring the Snake River’s natural flow is necessary to ensure their survival.

Earthjustice, a nonprofit legal advocacy group, wrote in a brief news release, “Salmon of the Columbia River Basin – and the people, wildlife, and ecosystems that rely upon them – require urgent action to prevent extinction.”

Over the past two decades, federal judges have ordered changes to how the federal government operates the dams, including by spilling more water over the dams to let fish pass more easily at the expense of generating electricity.

Amanda Goodin, the lead attorney on the case at Earthjustice, said a settlement with the federal government may offer broader changes.

“You can achieve some things in court, but a comprehensive solution that addresses a wide range of needs in the basin is not really one of them,” Goodin said.

The stay in litigation doesn’t mean there can’t be other lawsuits over the dams’ impact on salmon. On July 21, a coalition of conservation and fishing groups filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Army Corps of Engineers – which operates the four Lower Snake River dams – “for causing hot water conditions that kill and injure Snake River sockeye salmon in violation of the Endangered Species Act.”

The groups behind that forthcoming lawsuit – Columbia Riverkeeper, the Idaho Conservation League, the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and Idaho Rivers United – say they intend to ask a judge to order the breaching of the dams. Miles Johnson, legal director at Columbia Riverkeeper, said Thursday that it was too early to say whether an extension to the litigation pause would affect their plans.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Spokane Republican and staunch defender of the dams, responded to the notice of intent to sue by pointing to a statement by the Biden administration that dam breaching would require an act of Congress.

“Dam-breaching advocates don’t care about the facts,” McMorris Rodgers said. “If they did, they would see how fundamentally flawed their new lawsuit is. Only Congress has the authority to change the way these federally-managed dams operate.”

The extended pause in litigation, which a judge is likely to approve, could result in a settlement that would also be subject to legal challenges.

Sides in salmon and steelhead issue ask judge for more time to hammer out a solution

Sep 1, 2023
By Eric Barker Of the Tribune

Salmon migrating

Settlement talks that include breaching one or more Snake River dams as a possible action to recover threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead might be extended.

Parties to a decades-old lawsuit challenging operation of federal dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers over their detrimental effect on wild salmon and steelhead asked Thursday for more time to hammer out a solution.

The legal timeout began in 2021 when the Biden administration agreed to engage in mediated talks with the Nez Perce and other Native American tribes, Oregon and fishing and environmental groups. The stay, which was set to expire at the end of the day, halted proceedings in the latest round of the lawsuit in which the plaintiffs challenged the federal government’s 2020 plan that seeks to balance dam operations with needs of the fish. Courts have declared several earlier versions of the plan to be illegal.

If Judge Michael Simon grants the request, the talks seeking a “durable long-term strategy to restore salmon and other native fish populations to healthy and abundant levels” would continue for another 60 days.

“Salmon are in crisis, and we owe it to them to focus on durable solutions — including restoring the Lower Snake River — that work for the fish, honor our Treaty, and build a stronger, more resilient Northwest,” said Shannon Wheeler, chairperson of the Nez Perce Tribe, in a news release.

Amanda Goodwin, an attorney from the environmental law firm EarthJustice, told the Tribune her clients continue to seek a solution to the decades-long decline of salmon and steelhead that has left some runs on the brink of extinction.

“I think it is true, remains true and has been true for quite some time that my clients are pushing for a comprehensive solution to restoring salmon in the Columbia River basin,” Goodwin said, “and we see restoring the Snake River as an absolutely critical component of that.”

Goodwin said her clients believe replacing the services the dams provide is an essential part of any plan to restore the river.

Kurt Miller, executive director of Northwest River Partners, said the extension is likely bad news for public power customers and those in agriculture who depend on the dams to ship and irrigate their crops. Although those groups are intervenors in the case, Miller said they have been kept in the dark.

“The process has excluded us so far and it doesn’t bode well for what is going on,” he said. “I think it’s because the things they are negotiating will be bad for public power customers and agricultural interests.”

The federal government operates 14 dams on the two rivers. Dams on the Snake River have been shown to negatively affect survival rates for spring chinook, fall chinook, sockeye and steelhead, all of which are protected by the Endangered Species Act. On the Columbia River in central Washington, Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams have no fish passage mechanisms and the fish runs above them have long been extinct.

But the hydropower system also provides a significant portion of the electricity consumed by residents of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, and on the Snake River the dams make it possible to ship commodities like wheat between Lewiston and downriver ports.

The Nez Perce along with Oregon and fishing and environmental groups have advocated breaching the dams for more than two decades. That idea has gathered momentum of late. It started with Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, releasing his plan two years ago that would spend $33.5 billion to breach the dams and compensate affected communities and industries. Last year, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray, both Democrats, said breaching the dams is the surest way to recover the fish but that the action will not be feasible until there are replacements for services provided by the dams. Inslee’s administration is studying how those services might be replaced.

Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said for the first time the Snake River dams must be breached if wild salmon and steelhead that return to the river are to be restored to fishable numbers.

The request filed Thursday afternoon includes a footnote indicating the state of Idaho does not oppose the stay but thinks two months is not enough time. The document also indicates that the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the Spokane Tribe are close to reaching an agreement with the administration. In previous court filings, the tribes have asked for an environmental impact statement looking at the impacts of Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams on salmon runs that once returned to the upper Columbia River and for a 2020 EIS to be thrown out for its failure to do so. The upper Columbia River tribes have begun efforts to restore salmon above the dams.

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