Wild Salmon & Steelhead News

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Wild Salmon & Steelhead News is produced by the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. Read on to learn about the Columbia-Snake River Basin’s endangered wild salmon and steelhead, the many benefits they deliver to the people and ecosystems, and the extinction crisis they face today. Learn about our campaign to restore health, connectivity and resilience to the rivers and streams they depend upon in the Columbia-Snake Basin, and how you can get involved help protect and restore healthy, abundant and fishable populations and the benefits they bring to Northwest communities and the nation.

Contact Carrie if you have questions or to discuss how to get more involved.

This issue focuses mainly on the Snake-Columbia salmon and dams Draft EIS – its fatal flaws and the need for leadership and a new way forward.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1.  A few thoughts on the Coronavirus pandemic
2.  SOS Action Alert – Submit your comments to the federal government and Northwest policymakers re: the shortcomings of the 2020 Snake-Columbia Salmon and Dams Draft EIS
3.  About the Snake-Columbia Salmon & Dams Draft EIS
     A. Why the DEIS fails and what we need to replace it
     B. Taking Public Comment Process in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic: No public hearings. No extended comment deadline.
     C. Emerging Northwest stakeholder and policymaker leadership
4. Other news and developments
     A. Predicted Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead returns
     B. Governor Inslee releases Washington State’s Final Lower Snake River Dams Stakeholder Forum Report


1. A few thoughts on the Coronavirus pandemic
covidThe pandemic is now in full stride in the United States and across the globe. Save Our wild Salmon’s top priority at this time is to ensure the health and safety of our staff, partners, supporters and communities. As we do our part to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow the infection rate, SOS staff is continuing to work – but we are at home, sheltering in place and following the advice and guidance of local health experts and elected officials. This is a very difficult time for everyone – we’re out of our normal routines, our interactions with others are limited – and increasingly mediated by phones and the internet. It is disorienting, unsettling, and uncertain. We, our families and friends and communities face an unprecedented, health emergency. The information and circumstances and best practices keep changing. At this difficult time, we hope that you and yours are well and that you are able hunker down with your loved ones and be safe.

We are reaching out with the latest issue of the Wild Salmon & Steelhead News. For our work at SOS, 2020 started off fast and furious. Before the arrival of COVID-19 pandemic, we are hard at work participating in Gov. Jay Inslee’s public meetings as part of his Lower Snake River Stakeholder process, Gov. Kate Brown’s letter to Inslee re: Snake River salmon recovery and the need for Northwest solutions; and our preparatory work in advance of the release of the federal government’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Columbia-Snake salmon and dams.


take action copy2. SOS' Snake-Columbia Salmon and Dams Draft EIS Action Alert: Send your comments to the federal agencies and Northwest policymakers today!
The Snake-Columbia Draft Environmental Impact Statement comment deadline is April 13. Read on below to learn a lot more about the federal government’s inadequate roadmap for managing the federal hydrosystem for salmon recovery, but PLEASE ACT NOW to speak up for salmon, orca, fishing and others communities. SOS is collecting signatures and will deliver them to the federal agencies and the elected officials in the Pacific Northwest who are needed to bring people together and lead us toward real, lasting, science-based solutions for everyone involved – including a restored lower Snake River!


3. About the Snake-Columbia Salmon & Dams Draft EIS:
thumbs downA. Why the federal government’s “new” salmon plan for Columbia Basin salmon and dams fails salmon, orca and communities - and what we need to replace it.
The federal government’s “new” roadmap (Columbia River System Operations Draft Environmental Impact Statement – CRSO DEIS) for protecting and recovering endangered Snake and Columbia river salmon and steelhead – and the irreplaceable benefits they bring to people and ecosystems – is out. It disappoints but does not surprise: this latest effort recommends at best modest tweaks to an approach that has failed Snake and Columbia river salmon and Northwest communities for more than two decades. Calls for “a major overhaul” dating back to the 1990s from the courts, salmon and fishing advocates, Tribes, scientists and many others continue to go unheeded.

Northwest people and taxpayers have spent $17B on Columbia-Snake salmon recovery efforts; the U.S. District Court in Portland has rejected five consecutive federal plans; we have not recovered a single salmon population and today, salmon returns are among some of the lowest on record today. Salmon and steelhead and the people and businesses of the Pacific Northwest need a dramatically new approach.

Even if the federal agencies – BPA, Army Corps and Bureau of Reclamation – wanted to step up and develop a comprehensive solution that finally addresses this salmon/community crisis, they don’t have the mission or the authority to do so. The comprehensive solution that Northwest salmon and people need requires the engagement and leadership of our elected officials. Without political leadership, the costs, pain, losses, and uncertainty of the status quo will persist if not escalate.

The long-term comprehensive solution salmon and people need must:

  • Restore abundant, fishable salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia Basin
  • Protect and invest in the economic vitality of local farming and fishing communities
  • Continue the region’s legacy of providing reliable, affordable, clean energy, and,
  • Honor our nation’s treaty commitments to Native American Tribes and cultures.

But the agencies can’t do this. This requires Northwest people working together with the support and leadership of Northwest elected officials. There is, however, encouraging news. We’ve begun to see the requisite political leadership emerge – with, for example, Rep. Mike Simpson, Gov. Kate Brown and Gov. Inslee. And we’re seeing stakeholders fed up with the status quo beginning to talk and work together about new approaches and solutions that can bring everyone forward together. But we need more – constructive, urgent engagement by policymakers, stakeholders and sovereigns.

You can help by calling and writing your Governor and members of Congress. Click HERE for their numbers and suggested messages.

And here are a few links to further information referenced above - on the “new” DEIS, the public comment period and emerging political and stakeholder leadership:

- SOS Factsheet on the DEIS’ shortcomings.

- SOS' 'Speak Up for Salmon' Draft EIS Resource Page

- Nez Perce Tribe Press Release calling for leadership on lower Snake River restoration and accurate, complete, and transparent information on impacts of four lower Snake River Dams

B. Taking Public Comment Process in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic: No public hearings. No extended comment deadline.
The federal government released its 8,000 page Draft EIS on Feb. 28 and opened a 45-day public comment period. The shortest that is legally allowed. Under pressure, the agencies have canceled six regional public meetings and replaced them with call-in opportunities. But that is it. In the face of an unprecedented pandemic requiring unimaginable risks and disruption, the agencies refuse to extend the comment deadline or postpone and reschedule the public hearings.

SOS has led the charge in March – organizing three separate NGO sign-on letters addressed to the federal agencies and appealing to them to modify and extend the public comment period in response to the COVID pandemic. The issues are too important and the implications too great to rush this process. To date, we have not heard back. We expect the public comment period to close, as originally scheduled in just two weeks - April 13.

- You can read the three sign-on letters requesting additional time and rescheduling of the public hearings here: March 5, March 11 and March 17.

- Read this March 22 editorial from the Everett Herald echoing the Save Our wild Salmon's call to extend public comment period:
Everett Herald Editorial: Extend opportunity to comment on Snake River dams

C. Emerging Northwest stakeholder and policymaker leadership
In contrast to a stubborn and short-sighted federal government, there are some signs of hope in the form of emerging stakeholder and policymaker leadership and support for a new, collaborative way forward for salmon and communities. Below find links to some recent letters, articles and guest opinions in Northwest newspapers reflecting growing momentum from Northwest stakeholders and political leaders calling and pushing for a new approach and a comprehensive solution for salmon and communities. We are making critical progress, but more is urgently needed.

- Lewiston Morning Tribune (ID): Simpson offers critical remarks on river study Idaho congressman says federal government’s draft EIS doesn’t do enough for salmon and steelhead (March 11)

- On February 11, Gov. Kate Brown (OR) sent a letter to Gov. Inslee (WA) offering her help and seeking his partnership in support of comprehensive, collaborative regional solutions, including the restoration of the lower Snake River through dam removal.

On Feb. 24, Save Our wild Salmon's Joseph Bogaard co-signed a letter from 17 leaders from utilities, conservation organizations and a port to the four Northwest governors letter calling for an inclusive regionally-led effort to develop a plan that recovers salmon, invests in communities, supports an affordable, reliable energy system and upholds our nation's tribal treaty responsibilities.

On March 13, in the Statesman Journal (OR) - a guest opinion by farmer and fishing guide Grant Putnam: Bring our salmon back, make our energy clean and affordable, and strengthen communities.

On March 14, in the Register Guard (OR) - a guest opinion by Chris Daughters: Leadership casting for a brighter future.

On March 15, 12 central Idaho community leaders sent a letter to Gov. Little and Idaho Congressional delegation members urging swift action to recover salmon and steelhead populations that are critical to their economies. Read about it here in the Idaho Statesman.

On March 23, in the Spokesman Review (WA) - a guest opinion by Joseph Bogaard (SOS) and Chad Jensen (Inland Power and Light): Snake River decision must provide solutions for all sides.


4. Other important developments:
crisis.graphA. Predicted 2020 Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead returns - another grim year.
As if we need any reminders about the urgent need for action and grim state of affairs for endangered wild salmon and steelhead populations in the Snake and Columbia rivers, here are some links to information from fisheries managers in Washington and Oregon re: predicted fish returns in 2020. Ironically - or tragically - on the same day (Feb. 28) that the federal government released its indisputably inadequate Draft EIS, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife released its predicted returns for Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead: "Fishery managers say the coming year may be another tough one for anglers in Washington, with low salmon returns expected again in 2020...still well below the most recent 10-year average...a sharp decrease from the 2019 forecast...salmon fisheries will likely be more constrained than last year."

Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife: Salmon forecasts released as salmon season-setting process gets underway for 2020 (Feb. 2020)

Oregon Department of Fish and Game: 2019 Adult Returns and 2020 Expectations Columbia River (Jan 2020)

B. Governor Inslee releases Washington State’s Final Lower Snake River Dams Stakeholder Forum Report
2020.WA.LSRDams.Final.ReportIn early March, lost amid the escalating coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Inslee released the final report for the Washington State Lower Snake River Dams Stakeholder Process. The final report looks very similar to the Draft version from December. Notably, there is a little more attention paid to the economic communities - sport and commercial fishing businesses on the coast and inland that have made big sacrifices over time in terms of fishing opportunity, business activity, lost income and jobs in order to help meet conservation goals and reverse declining salmon and steelhead populations. No other communities - save Tribal communities of course - have made such dramatic sacrifices over time. SOS and its conservation and fishing member groups appreciate the increased attention to these communities and their sacrifices in recent decades.

SOS also greatly appreciates the Washington State legislature for providing full funding for the LSR stakeholder process in the 2019 legislative session and to Governor Inslee and his team for effective implementation of the process in Year 1. The 90+ interviews, the three public meetings, and the Final Report all demonstrate the Washington and Northwest citizens are able and interested in discussing difficult topics - like the fate of the lower Snake River dams - and exploring together possible solutions that will recover endangered salmon and steelhead populations AND take care of and invest in important, affected communities at the same time.

Wild Salmon & Steelhead News is produced by the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. Read on to learn about the Columbia-Snake River Basin’s endangered wild salmon and steelhead, the many benefits they deliver to the people and ecosystems of the Northwest, and the extinction crisis they face today. You’ll learn about our campaign to restore health, connectivity and resilience to the rivers and streams they depend upon in the Columbia-Snake Basin, and how you can get involved help protect and restore healthy, abundant and fishable populations.

Contact Carrie if you have questions or to discuss how to get more involved.

IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Nimiipuu River Rendezvous 2019! Hundreds gather in support of restoring a freely-flowing lower Snake River and its endangered native fishes.
  2. Fifty-five scientists send letter to policymakers - With warming waters, we have a choice to make in the lower Snake River: it's either dams or salmon.
  3. Save Our wild Salmon and Earth Ministry co-host “Loaves and Fishes” in Spokane.
  4. Salmon and orca advocates press Northwest Power and Conservation Council members for urgent action and leadership.
  5. Advocates press Washington and Oregon to fix water quality standards to increase spill and help salmon now!
  6. Dammed to Extinction documentary gains a national profile with screenings in Washington D.C. and New York City.
  7. Coming in early 2020: The court-ordered review of Columbia/Snake River salmon/steelhead recovery options is due for public release in February 2020
  8. Farewell (for now!) to Angela – superstar organizer in our Seattle office!

1. Nimiipuu River Rendezvous 2019! Hundreds gather in support of restoring a freely-flowing lower Snake River and its endangered native fishes.

2019.Rendezvous copyDuring a long weekend in September, tribal and non-tribal fishermen, business people, conservationists and others from across the Pacific Northwest came together to celebrate salmon and the many benefits they bring to people and ecosystems – and to raise our voices in support of a freely-flowing lower Snake River. This was the fifth annual gathering on the banks of the lower Snake River and was formerly called the “Free the Snake Flotilla.”

More than 400 people joined forces at the Hell’s Gate State Park outside of Lewiston (ID) and Clarkston (WA) for a paddle on the lower Snake River on Saturday and a series of presentations, discussions and films (Dammed to Extinction and A Healing Journey) over the course of the weekend. This year’s event was led by the Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, with support from several other organizations, including SOS. The Rendezvous drew people from all over the Pacific Northwest, and had fantastic youth attendance with scores of high school and college students – the next generation of water protectors and salmon restorers!

We extend a huge thank you to everyone that attended and helped with the Rendezvous this year – especially to Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment and the many supporting and participating organizations including Earthjustice, Friends of the Clearwater, Defenders of Wildlife, Spokane Falls Trout Unlimited, Earth Ministry, Palouse-Clearwater Trout Unlimited and Sierra Club. 

Also, many thanks to Spokane-based Roast House Coffee who kept the event deliciously caffeinated with sustainably-produced coffee. And a huge shout-out to Spokane’s solar installation company Eco Depot who provided the safety pontoon boat, endless volunteer help and boundless energy and enthusiasm. Solar Saves Salmon.


2. Fifty-five scientists send letter to policymakers - With warming waters, we have a choice to make on the lower Snake River: it's either dams or salmon.

science.letter.image.jOn Oct. 22, fifty-five scientists sent a letter to the governors and Members of Congress of Idaho, Washington and Oregon to highlight how the federal dams and reservoirs on the lower Snake River are combining with a changing climate to elevate water temperatures to lethal levels for salmon in summer months. As you may recall, high river temperatures devastated the sockeye salmon return to the Columbia-Snake Basin in 2015. It killed 250,000 sockeye salmon in July and August, including 96 percent of federally endangered sockeye returning to the Snake River. As the climate warms, years like 2015 will become more frequent, more intense and longer lasting.

In their letter to policymakers, scientists stated that lower Snake River dam removal is our best, and very likely only, option to reduce temperatures sufficiently to protect Snake River salmon from extinction. Restoring the lower Snake River and access for native fish to the thousands of miles of pristine rivers and streams in Idaho, northeast Oregon and southeast Washington is also our very best salmon/river restoration opportunity anywhere on the West Coast.

The scientists letter to policymakers regarding hot water in the lower Snake River is available here.

Lewiston Morning Tribune: Scientists assert only breaching can cool Northwest waterways (Oct. 23, 2019)


3. Save Our wild Salmon and Earth Ministry co-host “Loaves and Fishes” event in Spokane

loavesandfishes 650x330At a Spokane Loaves and Fishes event on October 22 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, a panel of farmers, commercial fishermen, Northwest tribal members and activists led a discussion with a room full of community members on a wide range of related topics including the lower Snake River dams, salmon conservation, agriculture, and tribal justice in the Columbia-Snake River Basin. The event, hosted by SOS and Earth Ministry, was aimed at addressing the well-being and future of salmon and the human communities that rely on healthy, resilient rivers.

Explained Earth Ministry Program and Outreach Director Jessica Zimmerle, “we believe in a future in which we can honor tribal treaty rights and restore salmon and ensure the livelihood of our farmers and fishermen, all with a vibrant, free-flowing lower Snake River.”

Loaves and Fishes is an on-going event series in the Inland Northwest co-lead by SOS and Earth Ministry, and supported by other organizations and community members.

These community events are designed to foster conversation that both highlight the challenges facing salmon and their rivers in the Columbia-Snake River Basin and explore durable, inclusive solutions to restore healthy salmon populations and ensure vibrant fishing and farming communities locally and regionally. For more information, contact Carrie: carrie@wildsalmon.org.

Spokane Faves: Event seeks to create a better future for lower Snake River (Oct. 24, 2019)


4. Salmon and orca advocates press Northwest Power and Conservation Council members for urgent action and leadership.

Events.NWPCC.2019.Photo3SOS teamed up with Sierra Club, Earth Ministry and others on October 15 to host a reception, rally and informal training in Seattle to help people understand and prepare for the Northwest Power Council’s final public hearing on its latest Fish and Wildlife Amendment. The Council updates their F&W plan every five years, and they’ve been taking public comment from across the region over the past several months.

Our organizing efforts turned out the largest crowd the Council has seen in any of their hearings to date. We had over a hundred people attend our pre-hearing rally, and then approximately 25 people provided testimony. People spoke from a range of perspectives – but everyone echoed the same themes: time is urgent, salmon and orca face extinction today, and the Council needs to think creatively, move quickly and engage their Governors (Inslee, Brown, Little and Bullock) in pursuing the big actions that salmon, orca and Northwest communities Events.NWPCC.2019.Photo5need today – including the restoration of the lower Snake River and its endangered salmon and steelhead.

The speakers were all excellent and included two representatives of the Chinook Nation near the mouth of the Columbia River, a 9-year old boy named Henry, energy experts, orca researchers, salmon advocates, fishing people, and many more. Some people delivered facts; others spoke poignantly from the heart. All asked for leadership and urgent and effective action. A huge thanks from SOS to everyone that attended and supported the speakers.

You can read Joseph’s public comments/testimony here.


5. Advocates press Washington and Oregon to fix water quality standards to increase 'spill' and help salmon now!

According to scores of salmon biologists, spilling water over the federal dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers is the best thing that the federal agencies who manage the dams can do in the near-term to help endangered salmon and steelhead as they migrate as young fish to the Pacific Ocean through the lethal system of dams and reservoirs.

The fact is: 'spill' is a critical lifeline now for imperiled Snake River fish until we have a long-term, lawful plan that removes four federal dams and replace their modest services with alternatives.

spill at lower graniteSalmon and fishing advocates working with the State of Oregon and Nez Perce Tribe have, through highly effective court action, repeatedly forced the federal agencies to steadily increase dam spill in the spring and summer when the juvenile fish are migrating to the ocean.

Back in December 2018, however, the federal agencies decided to join an interim agreement with Oregon, Washington and the Nez Perce Tribe to increase spill ‘flexibly’ between 2019-2021. This “flexible spill agreement” was designed to do three things during these three years: improve fish survival, reduce spill’s financial hit on BPA, and lessen the risk of new litigation.

In order to fully implement this agreement for the 2020 and 2021 salmon migrations, it requires Oregon and Washington to modify their water quality standards and thereby allow increased spill at the dams. Both states are working hard now to get this done – and SOS and allied organizations are keeping a close eye to ensure the new rules are done right and on time.  We’ve submitted technical letters; we’ve testified at public hearings; and we (with your support!) have delivered hundreds of signatures from citizens pressing both states to do right by salmon and permanently modify their water quality standards to 125% total dissolved gas (TDG) in time for the Spring 2020 out-migration.

As of today, we expect Washington to issue its new rule in December 2019, and Oregon to issue its new rule in January 2020. We will keep you posted on developments.

For now, we want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who has been part of this relentless multi-year pressure campaign. Your efforts – our collective efforts – have worked (though there is still much to be done of course!). Together, we’ve steadily ratcheted up spill levels and strengthened this critical lifeline for endangered salmon and steelhead for the next several years while we continue our work with others in the region to restore a freely flowing lower Snake River that saves salmon, saves orca and saves money – in a manner that helps fishing and farming communities across the region. Thank you.

For more information:

NY Times: How Long Before These Salmon Are Gone? ‘Maybe 20 Years’ (September 16, 2019)

Daily Kos: Endangered orcas' fate is tied to a series of dams 400 miles inland (September 1, 2019)

CBB: NOAA Releases New 2019 BiOp For Columbia Basin Salmon/Steelhead; Includes Flexible Spill (April 2, 2019)


6. ‘Dammed to Extinction’ documentary gains a national profile with screenings in Washington D.C. and New York City.

Dammed to ExtinctionD2E.AWARDS, the gripping and evocative documentary, explores the urgent plight of Southern Resident orcas and their need for many more chinook salmon in Northwest coastal waters to survive, reproduce and recover. The film has been accepted by numerous film festivals, including the Anderson Island Film Festival (WA), Gig Harbor Film Festival (WA), Eugene Environmental Film Festival (OR)  EcoFilm Festival (OR) and – most recently – the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York City.

SOS has been working with the film-makers and other partners to host screenings of the film across the Northwest. In October, we also helped screen Dammed to Extinction in Washington D.C. The film-makers and two orca experts from Washington State flew to the nation’s capitol for the screening and a set of meetings with Northwest lawmakers.

Thousands of people have attended screenings this year in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Movie goers already have sent postcards and made phone calls to their senators and governors to urge them to bring people together to craft a plan that restores the lower Snake River by removing its four costly dams and replacing the modest services they provide with alternatives like renewable energy and expanded rail lines.

SOS extends a huge ‘thank you’ to filmmakers Steven Hawley and Michael Peterson for dedicating their talents to produce this timely, moving film. We’ll continue to co-host and promote screenings around region.

If you are interested in hosting a screening or want to share ‘Dammed to Extinction’ with your friends and family, don’t hesitate to reach out to SOS. We’re happy to help. You can look for upcoming screenings here.

Also, DVD and Blu-Ray versions of the film are NOW AVAILABLE for sale at www.dammedtoextinction.com


7. Coming to you in early 2020: The court-ordered review of Columbia/Snake River salmon/steelhead recovery options is due for public release in February 2020

FTS.RallyBack in 2016 when the U.S. District Court in Portland invalidated the federal government’s last Columbia Basin salmon plan, it ordered a comprehensive review in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to examine all credible recovery options – including the removal of the four lower Snake River dams. An initial version of the review is nearing completion and a Draft Report (DEIS) will be released to the public in February, followed by a 45-day comment period. A set of public meetings/hearings are rumored, but details are not yet available.

The upcoming DEIS and comment period is a critical opportunity for people to mobilize and call on the engagement and leadership of Northwest policymakers to work with each other, stakeholders, and Northwest people to craft a lawful, science-based solution that truly protects endangered salmon and steelhead AND invests in Northwest communities and economy. Salmon and orca face extinction today and we desperately need solutions that will work for both fishers and farmers. Restoring the lower Snake River must occur in a manner that brings all of the region’s communities forward together.

When ordered by the court in 2016, the review presented a huge opportunity for the people of the Pacific Northwest – to examine our recovery options and understand the costs and benefits and tradeoffs of restoring a freely flowing lower Snake River – the action that Northwest biologists agree is our best and very likely only option to protect endangered salmon and steelhead populations from extinction.

The three federal agencies managing the federal dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers are the Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Their 25-year track record has been dismal: five consecutive federal plans for protecting Columbia and Snake River salmon and steelhead from extinction have all been rejected by the courts as inadequate and illegal. The agencies are now working on their 6th effort, while salmon, orca and fishing communities hang in the balance. It is undeniably clear today that the federal agencies will not and cannot resolve the Northwest’s biggest natural resource conflict with their new plan coming in 2020. Northwest people – and salmon and orcas – need the urgent engagement of Northwest governors and Members of Congress working with stakeholders and citizens to craft a lawful, science-based plan that includes restoring the lower Snake River. To get this done, we’ll also need to transition and invest in affected communities to ensure that we all move forward together.

Even if they wanted to, the federal agencies don’t have the mission or authority or charge to deliver a comprehensive solution. This is why we urgently need Northwest leaders stepping in and stepping up – bringing people together to develop a durable plan that protects and restores salmon, and invests in and transitions affected communities.

We need your voice – especially in early 2020 – to call for urgent leadership from our Governors and Members of Congress to bring people together and solve this linked set of problems.


8. Farewell (for now!) to Angela – superstar organizer in our Seattle office!

angelamoranWe want to wish superstar organizer Angela Moran the very best and a huge “thank you” for her amazing contributions to SOS’ work over the past 13 months. We are very sad to see her leave, but excited about her new opportunity – Angela is taking a new position with the Seattle Aquarium as a policy assistant (while she continues to work towards a Masters degree at the University of Washington).

Angela has her fingerprints all over SOS’ organizing, outreach, policy and communications work over the past year. She’s organized numerous screenings of Dammed to Extinction, produced the 2019 Hot Water Report, and assembled newsletters, display and outreach materials. Angela has staffed SOS tabling events, helped fundraise, lobbied in Olympia, talked to reporters, and much more.

We are very grateful for all of your contributions, wish you the very best at the Aquarium, and know that we’ll stay in touch. Thank you Angela! – Joseph, Sam, Carrie and the whole SOS team.


9. ACT TODAY! CALL FOR LEADERSHIP IN THE NORTHWEST TODAY:

The Northwest needs leadership NOW! Contact the governors and congress members of Washington and Oregon and tell them that salmon, orca, and Northwest people need a plan that invests in restoring our iconic species and investing in our local communities!

Have questions? Have ideas? Want to get move involved? Reach out to Carrie today!

Wild Salmon & Steelhead News is produced by the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. Read on to learn about the condition and trends of endangered wild salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia-Snake River Basin and the many benefits they deliver to the people and ecosystems of the Northwest and nation. And find out what you can do to get involved and help protect and restore them to healthy, abundant and fishable populations.

Contact Angela or Carrie if you have questions or to discuss how to get more involved.


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. WELCOME CARRIE HERRMAN – SOS’ NEW OUTREACH COORDINATOR!
  2. NIMIIPUU RIVER RENDEZVOUS 2019: A GATHERING TO SUPPORT A FREE-FLOWING SNAKE RIVER, SEPT 20-22, LEWISTON, IDAHO
  3. NEW ECONOMIC STUDY FINDS THE BENEFITS OF REMOVING LSR DAMS OUTWEIGH THE COSTS
  4. THREE MORE SOUTHERN RESIDENT ORCAS DECLARED DEAD, POPULATION NOW JUST 73 WHALES
  5. DISMAL SALMON RETURNS ACROSS THE BASIN IN 2019 SPELLS TROUBLE FOR ORCA AND COMMUNITIES
  6. ‘DAMMED TO EXTINCTION’ DOCUMENTARY RECEIVES CRITICAL ACCLAIM, INSPIRING AND MOBILIZING THE PUBLIC
  7. ACT NOW! HOW YOU CAN HELP ENDANGERED SALMON AND ORCA TODAY

1. WELCOME CARRIE HERRMAN – SOS’ NEW OUTREACH COORDINATOR!

Carrie.HerrmanSave Our Wild Salmon is happy to announce the addition of Carrie Herrman as our new Inland Northwest Outreach Coordinator based in our Spokane office.  

Carrie will help with public outreach, engaging volunteers and advocates in local work, organizing events and assisting with communications.  She will work with our local business allies, coordinate with SOS partners and share a vision for how a free-flowing lower Snake River can benefit the economies and communities of the Inland Northwest.  

Before joining SOS Carrie graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Environmental Studies and Philosophy and spent two years following graduation as an AmeriCorps Volunteer working to develop and implement sustainability leadership programs for Gonzaga's Office of Sustainability.

We are excited to have Carrie join our team.  She hit the ground running on Day 1. If you have questions or want to get more engaged with SOS work, you can reach her at carrie@wildsalmon.org.


 2. Nimiipuu River Rendezvous: Join us to Support a Free-Flowing Snake River, Sept. 20-22, 2019 - Lewiston, Idaho

2019NimiipuuRiverRendezvous.Banner

Join tribal members, anglers, boaters, and advocates for our salmon, orca and rivers at a gathering to support removing the four lower Snake River dams to recover endangered salmon and steelhead populations and restore their benefits to the Northwest and nation.

The River Rendezvous replaces the annual Free the Snake Flotilla from the past four years.  Hosted by Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, It will be a similar opportunity to spend time along the lower Snake River, explore the country and meet others working toward a Snake River that works for people, salmon and orca.  This year we'll gather at a new park upstream from Lewiston called Hellsgate State Park. Camping will be available. 

Come ready to learn and engage and have fun - with a wide range of presentations from people on issues like river restoration, treaty rights, climate change, salmon recovery, and traditions.  There will be opportunities to paddle the river, hike nearby and participate in workshops.  Evening events will include music and a screening of the acclaimed film Dammed to Extinction, about the connection between Northwest orcas and Snake River salmon.  Saturday evening will include a shared meal and live music.

This is a family-friendly event.  There are many activities within the park including hiking trails, volleyball, a playground—and of course the Snake River!

Supporting sponsors include Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Save Our wild Salmon, Spokane Falls Trout Unlimited, Friends of the Clearwater, Snake Riverkeeper, Eco Depot, and RoastHouse Coffee.

For more information:

Nimiipuu River Rendezvous Website

Facebook Event


3. NEW ECONOMIC STUDY FINDS BENEFITS OF RESTORING THE LSR OUTWEIGH THE COSTS

Map.Dams.SnakeRiver.Peterson.HawleyA new independent economic analysis was released last month that found that removing four federal dams to restore a freely flowing lower Snake River in southeast Washington State and its badly depleted salmon and steelhead populations – and the many benefits they deliver to the people of the Northwest and nation – would generate nearly $9 billion in net economic benefits.

The comprehensive study by ECONorthwest, the Pacific Northwest’s largest economic consulting firm, accounts for the costs of dam removal, the replacement of energy generated by the dams, and the needs of irrigation and transportation for farmers, finding that the total costs associated with removing the lower Snake River dams and replacing their services would amount to $4.3 billion. But this is just one-third of the $13 billion in economic benefits that would result from expanded recreation opportunities, operational savings (avoided costs), and the values that people across the Northwest and nation place on protecting and restoring salmon.

To make up for the loss of the minimal ‘clean’ energy provided by the dams (can energy that is driving salmon toward extinction really be considered clean?) the study points to a previous analysis which found an alternative portfolio of new renewable resources—including wind, solar, storage, and energy efficiency—could replace the dams’ energy functions at little or no increase in cost or greenhouse gas emissions.

Dam removal – coupled with rail and road transportation upgrades would also enable farmers that currently barge their wheat on the lower Snake River to meet their transportation needs at a lower overall cost to the public. In the last decade or more, many farmers have transitioned from barge to rail shipping to move their products to market. By fully transitioning to these alternative forms of transportation, dam removal could save taxpayers up to $20 million in annual subsidies that are currently required to keep the LSR barging sector afloat (pun intended). Furthermore, the small number of irrigators that rely on water from Ice Harbor reservoir could – with the proper planning and public investment – could transition to alternative water sources (or water delivery systems) to assure uninterrupted access to water for their operations.

The economic study also incorporates Northwesterners strong demonstrated support for saving salmon and orca whales from extinction. The study notes a survey conducted that found 68% of Washington State voters – across the entire state – are willing to pay as much as $7 more per month in their utility bill in order to protect and recover endangered Snake River salmon. This is roughly 4X more than what studies estimate it would actually cost.

The science in support of restoring the lower Snake River and its salmon and steelhead is solid, the clean and affordable energy case is strong and now the economics is sound as well. The status quo is not working for anyone. Now is the time for Northwest leaders to come together, to work with each other and Northwest people to develop a comprehensive package that restores the lower Snake River, protects orca and salmon from extinction, and provides benefits and necessary investments to affected communities throughout the region.

For further information:

Q13 Fox: Study, in breaching Snake River dams, benefits outweigh costs (July 29, 2019)

ECONorthwest Study: Executive Summary

ECONorthwest Study: Full Report


4. THREE MORE SOUTHERN RESIDENT ORCAS DECLARED DEAD, POPULATION NOW JUST 73 WHALES

Graph.Orca.2019Three more Southern Resident orcas – one from each pod – have not been seen for months and were declared dead by scientists at the Center for Whale Research last month. This announcement brings the critically endangered population just 73 individuals. J17 was the mother of Tahlequah (J35), who spent 17 days last summer carrying and mourning her dead calf. K25 had been showing signs of starvation since winter, orca scientists stated, and there had been concerns for his survival for some time. But the death of L84 may be the most tragic of all, as his death marks the loss of an entire matriline.

These three deaths, and the declining health of the entire population, are fundamentally attributable to a lack of food – particularly chinook salmon. Chinook runs in the Northwest in recent years are some of the lowest on record and orcas as a result have struggled. Scientists tell us that restoring far more abundant salmon populations in Northwest coastal waters is essential to the survival and recovery of the Southern Residents. Our region's very best opportunity for rebuilding large numbers of chinook salmon that we know orcas depend upon can be achieved by restoring the lower Snake River by removing its four costly, federal dams.

The Northwest and nation are at a crossroads today – and two national treasures are at risk of extinction: Snake River salmon and Southern Resident orcas. All four remaining populations of wild salmon and steelhead in the Snake River are at risk of extinction. And back in 2015, NOAA, the federal agency charged with protecting and restoring orcas (and salmon) issued its “Species in the Spotlight”. This report included Southern Residents as one of eight species in the U.S. most likely to go extinct without urgent, meaningful action. We have yet to see NOAA - and the federal government - back up those words with actions.

Fortunately, leadership may be emerging in the Pacific Northwest. Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID), for example, has begun asking the “what-if” questions to understand the impacts and the opportunities of removing the dams to restore salmon and orca and provide benefits to communities. In Washington, Governor Jay Inslee convened the Orca Task Force (OTF) in 2018 and worked with the Washington State legislature earlier this year to increase funding and programs to better meet the needs of orca. One critical program that was recommended by the OTF and funded by the legislature (with a lot of hard work by SOS and many salmon and orca advocates): a Lower Snake River stakeholder process to understand concerns and identify and detail the kinds of investments, transitions and opportunities that will be needed by communities if/when the dams are removed to restore this historic river and its salmon. This process – centered around a series of interviews and information gathering – is now getting under way.

Though encouraging, essential steps in the right direction, much more is needed. Time is not on our side. Scroll down to learn what you can do to help and who you can contact to convey your concern and call for leadership and urgency.

Some links to further information:

KUOW: Orca population drops as 3 more killer whales presumed dead (August 6, 2019)

Seattle Times: Chinook bust on the Columbia: Spring returns worse than forecast on Northwest’s largest river (May 30, 2019)

Daily Kos: Endangered orcas' fate is tied to a series of dams 400 miles inland (September 1, 2019)


5. DISMAL SALMON RETURNS ACROSS THE COLUMBIA BASIN, TROUBLE FOR ORCA AND COMMUNITIES

orca.chasing.salmonThroughout the Columbia-Snake River Basin, adult wild salmon and steelhead returns this year have been dismal. From chinook to sockeye to steelhead, returns across to board are coming in at below – often well below - pre-season estimates set by fisheries managers.

Here is some context: For wild spring/summer chinook salmon, for example, historic returns to the Snake River are estimated to have been approximately 2 million adult fish annually. This year, fisheries managers expected just 135,200 spring/summer to return to the entire basin. This figure includes wild and hatchery fish. By the end of this season, just 75 percent of that predicted number was realized. 

As of August 6th, only 61 individual sockeye salmon had crossed the uppermost dam (Lower Granite) on the lower Snake River. This is fewer fish than both 2018 and 2017 at this time. And it is just 6 percent of the most recent 10-year average typically seen by this date. A century ago, scientists estimate ~150,000 sockeye salmon returned to the Snake River and its tributaries on an annual basis. Today, however, Snake River sockeye are the probably the most endangered of all the Columbia Basin salmon – and one of most endangered populations on the planet. In each of the last two years, less than a dozen have returned to their natal spawning grounds in the Stanley Basin in central Idaho.

Snake River steelhead – highly sought-after by recreational fishermen and a valuable natural resource especially in many small rural communities in the Idaho and elsewhere in the Northwest – are not faring much better. The number of A-run steelhead that are expected pass from July through August is just 46 percent of the 10-year average, while the number of B-run steelhead that pass Bonneville August through October is expected to be just 24 percent of the 10-year average.

Wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia-Snake Basin all face a deep decline that is pressing them ever closer to extinction. With these fish in trouble, so are the communities, economies, ecosystems and other species that depend on them. To protect and restore these iconic and instrumental fish, we must restore and reconnect their river systems. Where we have done this – the Elwha (WA), Sandy (OR), Carmel (CA) and Penobscot (ME), rivers recover and so do their wild, native fish populations.

For further information:

CBB: Snake River Sockeye Run Lowest In More Than A Decade, Currently 6 Percent Of 10-Year Average (August 8, 2019)

Boise Weekly: Salmon Runs in 2019 Expected to Be Lower Than 2017, 2018 (August 7, 2019)

Idaho Statesman: Idaho fisheries managers forecast poor steelhead return (July 28, 2019)


 6. 'DAMMED TO EXTINCTION’ RECEIVING CRITICAL ACCLAIM, INSPIRING AND MOBILIZING THE PUBLIC

DammedtoExtinction.FilmFestivalsThe documentary Dammed to Extinction exploring the urgent plight of Southern Resident orcas and their need for many more chinook salmon in Northwest coastal waters continues to draw big crowds. And Dammed to Extinction is getting noticed by film festivals as well! It has been accepted into numerous film festivals, including the Anderson Island Film Festival (WA), Gig Harbor Film Festival (WA), Eugene Environmental Film Festival (OR)  EcoFilm Festival (OR) and – most notably – the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York. As the film gains a higher profile, so will the plight of the Southern Resident orca and the pressure for leadership on policymakers to take act before it is too late.

The film focuses on orca researcher Ken Balcomb and other experts and advocates who describe this amazing community of whales and explain how the four dams on the lower Snake River have choked off access to immense, pristine habitats for the once-abundant spring, summer and fall Chinook populations.

SOS and our partners and allies are working with the makers of Dammed to Extinction to host screenings around the Northwest, inspiring audience members through the film’s incredible cinematography and storytelling, along with the disheartening tragedies facing both the whales and the salmon. Movie-goers have sent in hundreds of postcards and made phone calls to Northwest policymakers calling for their leadership to bring people together and craft a plan that restores the lower Snake River, that invests in affected communities, and that gives endangered wild salmon and Southern Resident orca a fighting chance to survive and recover.

Have you been trying to see the film, but not able to attend a screening? Do not fret! The film will eventually be available online. In the meantime, make sure to frequently check our list of screenings to find the next showing near to you.

For further information:

Crosscut: A new film argues Lower Snake dams make life worse for salmon, orcas and everyone in the PNW (August 13, 2019)

Dammed to Extinction website


7. ACT NOW! HOW YOU CAN HELP ENDANGERED SALMON AND ORCA TODAY.

Here are several of SOS’ current alerts. Elected leaders in the Northwest need to hear from you today. Please call and write. Please share with your friends and family.

Northwest needs leadership NOW! Contact the governors and congress members of Washington and Oregon and tell them that salmon, orca, and Northwest people need a plan that invests in restoring our iconic species and investing in our local communities!

Spill Public Input in Oregon and Washington: Both Washington and Oregon have proposed to make rule changes to allow for increased spill of water over the federal dams on the Columbia River to help juvenile salmon on their outmigration from the rivers to the ocean. Tell them that you support increased spill for salmon survival! Click here to sign the petition!

Have questions? Have ideas? Want to get move involved? Reach out to Angela or Carrie today

Wild Salmon & Steelhead News is produced by the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. Read on to learn about the condition and trends of endangered wild salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia-Snake River Basin and the many benefits they deliver to the people and ecosystems in the Northwest and nation. And to find out what you can do to get more involved and help protect and restore them to healthy, abundant and fishable populations.

Contact Angela if you have questions or to discuss how to get more involved.


IN THIS ISSUE:

1. 2019 RETURNS OF THE SNAKE AND COLUMBIA RIVER SALMON FALL FAR SHORT OF FISH MANAGERS’ LOW PREDICTIONS; COMMUNITIES STRUGGLE AS FISHING SEASONS CLOSE

2. CONGRESSMAN MIKE SIMPSON (R-ID) ASKS “WHAT IF?” THE LOWER SNAKE RIVER DAMS MUST BE REMOVED TO PROTECT SALMON AND STEELHEAD FROM EXTINCTION

3. POLITICAL PROGRESS AND EMERGING LEADERSHIP IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

4. ‘DAMMED TO EXTINCTION’ - NEW DOCUMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS THE PLIGHT OF SOUTHERN RESIDENT ORCAS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF RESTORING THE LOWER SNAKE RIVER AND ITS SALMON

5. NEW CALF IN MAY MEANS “+1” FOR SOUTHERN RESIDENT ORCAS!


1. 2019 RETURNS OF THE SNAKE AND COLUMBIA RIVER SALMON FALL FAR SHORT OF FISH MANAGERS’ LOW PRE-SEASON PREDICTIONS; NORTHWEST COMMUNITIES STRUGGLE AS FISHING SEASONS CLOSE.

1sockeye.web 2Almost across the board, adult salmon returns to the Columbia and Snake River continue to head in the wrong direction. Returns so far this season for spring Chinook, sockeye and steelhead all show continued and very troubling declines. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2019 forecast for Snake River Spring Chinook, for example, was just 11,200 fish - of which 2,100 were wild fish (Historic returns numbered in the millions). Then, in late May, forecasts were downgraded twice, with returns occurring at only 30% of these initial projections. As a result of these terrible returns, Idaho closed Chinook salmon fishing on the Clearwater river in May, with Washington State quickly following suit.

Summer Chinook returns which began in mid-June were initially tracking fish managers’ (low) pre-season estimates, but recently dropped off. The only potential bright spot may be coho, or silver salmon, but it is still too early to know for certain. They are particularly sensitive to ocean conditions; their relatively robust numbers may indicate that cyclic poor ocean conditions have recently improved. Most Columbia River coho begin life in hatcheries and return to the lower Columbia River – and so are largely unaffected by Bonneville and the other federal dams and reservoirs further upstream.

Context is critical here. Salmon returns to the Columbia Basin this year are among the lowest on record – they are coming in at just a fraction of the 10-year average and in many cases far below what fisheries experts predicted at the start of the season. For Snake River populations, this is the fifth consecutive year of decline in adult returns. Despite billions of dollars spent across more than two decades, the return-on-investment is, by any definition, unacceptable. Clearly, a new lawful and science-based approach is needed (Hint: it includes a restored, freely flowing river).

Needless to say, the benefits that salmon deliver – including essential food for critically endangered Southern Resident orca – have also declined steeply too and are creating a nest of related problems harming communities and ecosystems.

For communities like Riggins, Idaho, these fishing closures mean severe economic harm. The sport fishing industry has been a huge component of their annual income and economic activity: guiding, sales, rentals, hotels, food, etc. Without fishing opportunity, the town’s tourism economy suffers. Kerry Brennan, a part-time guide told the Lewiston Morning Tribune that he thought salmon returns had already bottomed out in years previous, and “if this ain’t the bottom, it’s going to be pretty scary.”

Robust salmon runs up the Snake and into tributaries like the Clearwater River can attract tourists regionally and nationally. A study by the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation found that a restored salmon and steelhead fishery would create thousands of full-time jobs statewide and add hundreds of millions of dollars annually to river communities like Riggins, Salmon, and Challis. A restored Snake River has the potential to not only bring back healthy salmon runs, but to also rebuild and diversify healthy communities across the Northwest.

For more information:

(1) Seattle Times: Chinook bust on the Columbia: Spring returns worse than forecast on Northwest’s largest river (Mapes, 30 May 2019)

(2) Lewiston Morning Tribune: Spring chinook season comes to close (Barker, 5 June 2019)

(3) Idaho Fish & Game: very few sockeye salmon returning to Idaho (9 July 2019) 


2. CONGRESSMAN MIKE SIMPSON (R-ID) ASKS “WHAT IF?” THE LOWER SNAKE RIVER DAMS MUST BE REMOVED TO PROTECT SALMON AND STEELHEAD FROM EXTINCTION

Simpson.Andrus.April2019At a conference last April hosted by the Andrus Center of Public Policy, Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) delivered keynote remarks expressing his grave concerns about the declining populations of Idaho-bound wild salmon and steelhead and the health and future of the Bonneville Power Administration (the agency responsible for marketing and distributing the power generated by the federal dams in the Columbia Basin).

Congressman Simpson announced that he is “getting tired of Idaho paying the costs of those dams and getting none of the benefits” and he committed “to do whatever is necessary to bring the salmon back.” Congressman Simpson’s remarks were welcomed by salmon and fishing advocates across the region that have been fighting for years to protect and restore native fish populations endangered by the harmful effects of the federal dams and their reservoirs – especially on the lower Snake River. Though he did not explicitly endorse removal of the lower Snake River dams, he did serve it up as an option that he and his staff have been studying closely and talking about with others.

The facts around Snake River salmon, of course, are stark and urgent action is needed to protect and restore the Northwest’s native fish and the many benefits they deliver to our communities and ecology.

  • All remaining Snake River salmon and steelhead populations are at risk of extinction today
  • Adult returns to the Snake River have declined steadily in each of the last five years and in 2019 are among the lowest returns on record.
  • Our region and nation has spent $16B+ over the past two decades, but has yet to recover a single population in the Columbia and Snake rivers.
  • Many fishing businesses and communities on the coast and inland are struggling to make ends meet; declining Snake and Columbia river salmon and steelhead returns are a big part of the problem.
  • The last five salmon plans produced by the federal government have all been found inadequate and illegal.

By any metric, the federal government’s salmon strategy for the Columbia Basin is failing and a dramatically new approach is needed. Congressman Simpson understands this.

Congressman Simpson is also worried about the big financial challenges that the BPA faces today: it has burned through more than $800M in reserves in the last 5 or so years; its projects – dams and reservoirs – are aging and costs to maintain and repair are steadily rising. Despite heavy spending, its salmon recovery investments have delivered a dismal return-on-investment, its latest plan is illegal, and the court – and the people of the Northwest – require much more. Meanwhile, renewable energy projects are expanding and their costs plummeting. For the first time in more than 80 years, the BPA business model isn’t working so well. In his comments in April, Rep. Simpson emphasized the importance of both BPA and wild salmon to the people of Idaho and the Northwest and the need to address the related problems they face together.

(1) Read some of Congressman Simpson’s quotes from his keynote address at the Andrus Center conference here (PDF).

(2) See Congressman Simpson’s full remarks here (45 minutes; video).

(3) Idaho Statesman: Simpson stops short of calling for dam removal to save salmon. But he is asking, ‘What if?’ (25 April 2019)

(4) Seattle Times Guest Opinion: Can Bonneville Power Administration be saved? (31 May 2019) 


3. POLITICAL PROGRESS AND EMERGING LEADERSHIP IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

While Congressman Simpson has made recent public commitments to restore wild salmon and steelhead and ensure a healthy BPA, he isn't the only one. In the last several years, policymakers at the state and federal levels have begun to step up, shake up the status quo and push for real solutions to recover salmon, protect orca and invest in affected communities. SOS supports this leadership and calls for it to continue and grow.

First, it is important to recognize the strong and successful partnership that SOS and its member groups have maintained with the State of Oregon and Nez Perce Tribe. We are very grateful for this alliance. Both have been steadfast in their commitment to salmon recovery, to holding the federal government accountable to the federal laws and to upholding our obligations to Northwest people, cultures and ecosystems.

Second, we greatly appreciate Senator Murray’s successful efforts to kill HR 3144 in the 2017-18 Republican-controlled Congress. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ bill would have overturned the excellent 2016 court decision that invalidated the federal agencies’ Inslee.SigningOrcaBillslatest (terrible) salmon plan and it would have rolled back court-ordered spill that’s helping salmon in the near-term while we work to restore the lower Snake River by removing its four deadbeat dams.

Third, we applaud Governor Inslee and the Washington State legislature for supporting and fully funding ($750K) Lower Snake River Stakeholder Forum that will bring stakeholders together in the coming months to identify and detail the types of investments that will be needed to transition affected communities if/when these four dams are removed. This is a critical conversation that cannot occur soon enough.

Fourth, in recognition of the critical plight of salmon and steelhead populations in Idaho, Governor Little recently convened Idaho’s own Salmon Recovery Working Group – bringing together stakeholders to identify gallery 01 2016 Free the Snake rally Seattlestrategies and actions that will recover Idaho’s native fish populations.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – we need to recognize and acknowledge YOU and so many others like you – that have attended meetings, made phone calls, sent emails and delivered support and pressure to our policymakers. None of the progress we’ve made would have happened without your help. Endless pressure, endlessly applied. We will never recover wild salmon, restore a free flowing lower Snake River, or protect Southern Resident orcas without your active support. Thank you for all you have done to help open a critical window of opportunity for salmon, orcas and communities. We have much hard work ahead to support the leadership to date – and to build on it in the weeks and months ahead. The plight of orca and salmon is urgent – and there’s no time to waste. Thank you!


4. ‘DAMMED TO EXTINCTION’ - NEW DOCUMENTARY HIGHLIGHTS THE PLIGHT OF SOUTHERN RESIDENT ORCAS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF RESTORING THE LOWER SNAKE RIVER AND ITS SALMON

DammedToExtinctionThe recently released documentary Dammed to Extinction explores the urgent plight of Southern Resident orcas and their need for many more chinook salmon. This unique whale population was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2005 but their numbers have continued to decline since that time. Today just 76 whales survive.

The film focuses on the Northwest’s ‘dean of orca research’ Ken Balcomb and other orca experts and advocates who describe this amazing community of whales and explain how the four dams on the lower Snake River have choked off a critical orca prey (spring chinook salmon) from access to 5,000+ miles of once highly productive river and stream habitat upstream. Experts predict that restoring this river in southeast Washington State by removing its costly, deadly dams will return many hundreds of thousands of chinook salmon each year and help feed starving orcas during the critical winter months when other salmon populations are especially scarce.

SOS and our coalition partners are working with the filmmakers to show the documentary in Northwest locations and inspire audiences to act. We are planning additional screenings in the coming months. Check here for a schedule of dates and locations.

For further information:

(1) Dammed to Extinction website

(2) Seattle Times: Hunger, the Decline of Salmon Adds to the Struggle of Puget Sound’s Orca (February 2019)

(3) Orca Scientists' Letter to Southern Resident Orca Recovery Task Force re: spring chinook, spill and lower Snake River dam removal (Oct. 2018)


5. NEW CALF IN MAY MEANS “+1” FOR SOUTHERN RESIDENT ORCAS!

OrcaBaby.J53.2019In late May, a new calf was spotted among the Southern Resident orca. This is the second calf to be born to the group of whale since the start of 2019!

The newest orca born to the J Pod, J56, brings the total count of Southern Resident orcas up to 76. Scientists were further thrilled when it was determined that the new calf was a girl. "If she makes it to her teens she might start producing babies of her own," Ken Balcomb from the Center for Whale Research told Q13 Fox.

Last summer, the region watched in heartbreak as J35 (Tahlequah) pushed her dead calf around for 17 days and over 1,000 miles. These two births bring great hope, as only about 50% of orca survive to see their 2nd birthday, and no calf born to the southern residents from 2016-2018 survived. As of now, the two new calves appear healthy.

With the population so low, every individual whale is critical for the orcas' survival and recovery.

For more information:

(1) Seattle Time: New orca calf reported in southern-resident J pod

(1) Seattle Times: It’s a girl: Researchers get closer look at J pod orca baby


Finally, we would like to thank the following businesses for their support and generous contribution to SOS!

biz.logos

The intense pace of work at SOS around Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead recovery and related issues continues. Here's our latest issue of the Wild Salmon & Steelhead News (Sept. 2018). Read on to get caught up and find out how you can help.

Please reach out (Joseph or Sam) if you have questions, to get more involved.

IN THIS ISSUE:
1. 4th Annual Flotilla to Free the Snake! draws 800 attendees - and includes some very special guests
2. ***Breaking News!*** Anti-salmon legislation in U.S. Congress dealt a serious blow in September
3. Republican lawmakers host Congressional field hearing in Washington State’s Tri-Cities region
4. Governor Inslee’s Orca Task Force scrambles toward its mid-Nov. deadline: increased 'spill' and a restored lower Snake River must be top priorities
5. U.S. State Department hosts Town Hall meeting on modernizing the Columbia River Treaty in Portland, OR
6. Required Reading: A roundup of recent media
7. A huge 'thank you' and farewell (for now!) to Jacob Schmidt, SOS star organizing intern


***TAKE ACTION NOW***

(1) CALL/WRITE Senator Murray (WA), Congressmembers Adam Smith (WA), Pramila Jayapal (WA), and Earl Blumenauer (OR). THANK THEM for their active public leadership to block anti-salmon legislation HR 3144 and Section 506 in the E&W spending bill.

(2) CONTACT Governor Inslee: "More spill and fewer dams! Restore Columbia-Snake salmon to protect critically endangered Southern Resident orcas from extinction!"


1. 4th Annual Flotilla to Free the Snake! draws 800 attendees and includes several very special guests.

For our 4th 2018.Flotilla.bridgeyear, SOS teamed up with Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, Friends of the Clearwater, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and many other groups, businesses and individuals on September 7 and 8 to host our biggest Free the Snake! Flotilla ever. Over 800 people gathered on traditional Nez Perce lands at Chief Timothy Park on the banks of the lower Snake River just outside Lewiston (ID) and Clarkston (WA). Many camped out on the 7th and/or 8th. We shared fry-bread and salmon donated by the Nez Perce Tribe. People came from all over – some as far away as Colorado and California. Many Tribal members attended - coming from the Columbia Basin, Salish Sea region and beyond.

The two-day event included information tables, welcome and closing ceremonies, and speakers and music. Special guests included Winona LaDuke – the internationally recognized Tribal activist from the White Earth region of the Upper Midwest known for both tenaciously fighting new fossil fuel projects that threaten us all as well as her advocacy for sustainable development and communities. Saturday evening attendees were treated to an intimate evening with Nahko (of Nahko and Medicine for the People). He performed a solo acoustic set of his songs late into the evening.

2018.FreetheSnakeSaturday’s flotilla drew hundreds of people onto the (for now!) flat waters of the reservoir created by Lower Granite – the uppermost of the lower Snake’s four dams. It included a tribally-led canoe paddle that began in the morning upstream on the Clearwater River on the Nez Perce reservation. For one of the five canoes, it was the first time on the water – the first traditional hand-carved canoe to be produced and paddled by members of the Nez Perce Tribe in 113 years! The traditional canoe culture of many Columbia Basin Tribes had been lost for generations, but today is enjoying a revival in many communities.

Finally, we want to communicate a huge thank you – first and foremost to our Nimiipuu partners and hosts, and then to the many organizations, businesses and individuals that helped to organize and support and attend another amazing Flotilla to raise our voices together – to Free the lower Snake River, its endangered native fish populations – and the irreplaceable benefits they deliver to our region. Follow this link to FreeTheSnake.com to see a list of the organizations and businesses that supported this year’s Flotilla.

Media Link: Spokesman Review: More than 600 turn out for Snake River protest Saturday


2. ***Breaking News!*** Anti-salmon legislation in the U.S. Congress dealt a serious blow in September

220px Patty Murray official portrait 113th CongressWe have some excellent news to report from Washington D.C - a rare thing these days. The anti-salmon, anti-spill, anti-dam removal legislation that has been championed by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers since spring of 2017 was dealt a serious setback earlier this week. Aided by a small number of allies in Northwest states, Rep. McMorris Rodgers has relentlessly pushed two pieces of anti-salmon legislation. She introduced HR 3144 last year. It seeks to roll back critical salmon protections (increased spill) recently ordered by the court, undermine the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, overturn federal court rulings, and fatally constrain the court-ordered environmental review of salmon restoration alternatives in the Columbia Basin – including the removal of the four lower Snake River dams. While 3144 passed the House roughly along party lines, it has no Senate champion and has not been introduced there. Unless this changes (and that seems unlikely now), the chances for passage of 3144 is this Congress have significantly slimmed.

This spring, Rep. McMorris Rodgers also added a legislative rider – Section 506 or what many called the ‘Salmon Extinction Rider’ – on this year’s Energy & Water Resources spending bill. This rider was one of 3144’s key provisions – it would roll back court-ordered salmon 'spill' at the dams on the lower Snake and lower Columbia rivers. Spill is one of our most effective near-term salmon protections – short of LSR dam removal. Spill is an essential near-term action to buy critical time for endangered salmon while we continue our work to restore a freely flowing lower Snake River as part of a larger salmon plan for the Columbia Basin. Spill can help boost salmon populations in the Columbia Basin in the next several years – and thus is also an essential measure to help feed Southern Resident orcas that need more food now!

Well, we learned on Monday evening (9.10) – just after the Congressional Field Hearing in Pasco (see story below) was completed – that the Salmon Extinction Rider has been removed from the E&W Resources bill. This is a huge victory for salmon and orca, and for the many communities and people working hard to protect and rebuild our iconic fish populations. While the rider was blocked, Rep. McMorris Rodgers did insert a short paragraph into the Committee Report that accompanies this bill. Though this language is inaccurate and misleading, it is also non-binding and will not have any effect on spill, the NEPA review, or court decisions.

This victory is the result of coordinated, effective, and relentless pressure by the growing coalition of salmon/orca/river/fishing advocates and their allies across the Northwest and nation. More and more people recognize the costly failures of the federal agencies' past so-called ‘salmon recovery’ efforts, the importance of allowing science to guide our decision-making, the high price of degraded ecosystems and intensifying risk of salmon and orca extinction. And, ultimately, the realization that the feds' long-time strategy is working for no one - and a new approach is desperately needed.

As a result of our/your collective work, politics and policy in the Northwest is shifting. Kudos are especially due to Senator Patty Murray who led this regional fight to stop the Salmon Extinction Act (HR 3144) and Rider (Section 506). Senator Murray recognized these bills for what they were: harmful to salmon and harmful to regional processes and discussions occurring today to address the problems that face salmon, orca and Northwest communities. HR 3144 and Section 506 are both highly divisive to the Northwest communities that must work together on shared solutions to common problems. Thanks and praise are also due to other key elected officials who worked vigilantly to prevent these bills from becoming law, including Reps. Adam Smith, Pramila Jayapal, Earl Blumenauer, Derek Kilmer, Denny Heck, and others.

Importantly, when HR 3144 came to the House floor for a vote, all the Democratic lawmakers in Oregon and Washington voted the right way - against it – with one exception – Rep. Kurt Schrader from Oregon.

If you are represented by these lawmakers in Oregon or Washington (Rep. Schrader being the exception), please reach out to thank them for their leadership and ask them to keep pushing the region toward real, lasting solutions for our salmon, orca, rivers and communities.

It is important to remember that nothing is totally safe or certain until Congress officially adjourns later this year, so we must all remain vigilant. For the moment, however, we can breath a sign of relief. Thank you to all that worked on and helped our efforts to block this harmful legislation.

Media Links:
Senator Murray: Deal Keeps Politics out of Columbia River System Operations
SOS Press Statement on Energy & Water Resources Spending Bill - removal of Section 506


3. Republican lawmakers hold Congressional Field Hearing in Tri-Cities (WA).
2018.pasco.presser1On September 10, Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers hosted a Congressional Field hearing in Pasco in south-central Washington State. The two-hour hearing provided these lawmakers a platform to serve up now well-known tropes of misleading, inaccurate and de-bunked science and policy that wrongly pits farmers against fishers – dividing communities at a time when we need to be coming together to address common problems with shared solutions.

According to Reps. Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers:

• Salmon and steelhead populations are doing fine. There’s no problem.
• Increased levels of spill harm salmon, is unsupported by science and could cause regional energy blackouts.
• Spill and lower dam removal will cause economic devastation locally and regionally.
• Orca are just the latest reason by anti-dam activists that actually really don't care about salmon. These zealots just want to remove dams.
• The lower Snake River dams and salmon can co-exist.
• LSR dam removal means increased reliance on fossil fuels and increased carbon emissions.

The lawmakers and their select witnesses strategically combined the “Columbia-Snake” dam projects as a single, indivisible system. In doing so, they imply that salmon advocates seek to remove dams on the Columbia as well as Snake River (not true). And by insisting on lumping together the mainstem dams on both rivers, the dams’ defenders block any meaningful scrutiny of the truly high-cost, low-value dams on the lower Snake.2018.pasco.signs

This field hearing only reinforces the importance of our collective work over time to encourage, develop and distribute accurate, credible information on the real problems – and more importantly the solutions – facing imperiled salmon and orca, degraded rivers and watershed and struggling communities.

Two witnesses were invited by the minority party to present a different perspective – and both did an excellent job to correct the record and challenge the misinformation repeated by Reps. Newhouse, McMorris Rodgers and their witnesses. Minority witnesses included McCoy Oatman, Vice-Chair of the Nez Perce Tribal Council and Glen Spain, regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. In different ways, they spoke of the importance of protecting and restoring healthy rivers and healthy populations of salmon and steelhead, some of the critical changes that are needed in the federal system of dams in order to achieve this, and how the steep salmon declines in the Columbia Basin harm communities and cultures inland and across the West Coast.

SOS understands that restoring the lower Snake River will require change in this region. Transitions and investments will be needed for local affected communities to ensure that the modest energy, transportation and irrigation infrastructure these four dams provide are replaced with efficient, cost-effective alternatives like solar and wind resources and upgraded rail lines. These types of investments – and a restored river and salmon - represent a tremendous opportunity for our communities locally and regionally. This transition will require thoughtful planning and we cannot get these types of discussions started soon enough.

Media Links:
Courthouse News: GOP Witnesses Dispute Science at Hearing Over Dam Removal
SOS Press Statement on hearing


4. Governor Inslee’s Orca Task Force scrambles toward its mid-November deadline: increased spill and a restored lower Snake River must be top priorities.
2018.OTF.Anacortes1We’ll keep this report short – but not for lack of content and activity! The leaders and members of the Orca Task Force are working fast and furious to meet the new (slightly extended) deadline of Nov. 16 for delivery of its first set of recommended action to Govenor Inslee in order to protect the Southern Residents from extinction. As you know, lack of sufficient prey - especially chinook salmon - is the top need that must be addressed as quickly as possible, with reducing vessel interference and toxin loads running a close second.

It remains a steep learning curve for Task Force members, given the tight timelines, wide-ranging issue areas and large geography.

Asyou read this, draft recommendations are starting to emerge from the three working groups, but at this stage, with educational webinars still for Task Force members still on the calendar, we understand that things are still very much in flux. The OTF’s supporting staff and facilitators are clearly working very hard to make progress, address concerns and needs. Everyone's attention and continued scrutiny and pressure on the Governor and on the Task Force will be needed to achieve the big, bold actions that are needed to protect the Southern Residents from extinction.

Several highlights:
(1) 33 scientists delivered a letter to the Task Force members at the Anacortes (WA) meeting in August – strongly urging two specific recommendations for action in the Columbia Basin: increased spill at federal dams and the restoration of the lower Snake River by removing its four federal dams.

(2) Nearly all the public comment delivered in Anacortes focused on the restoring the lower Snake River and its salmon. Time constraints limited public comment to less than two dozen people. 157 people had signed up to speak. Go here to provide public input to the Task Force online!

(3) SOS distributed these factsheets with the Task Force members on energy and transportation: NW Energy Coalition Lower Snake River Power Replacement Study, and two from Lin Laughy on lower Snake River energy and transportation.

(4) Upcoming meetings on Oct. 17/18 and Nov. 6. See additional details and information at the Orca Task Force webpage.

Media Link:
NRDC Blog: The Story of the Grieving Orca Mother Is Heartbreaking—and a Call to Action


5. U.S. State Department hosts Town Hall meeting on modernizing the U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty in Portland, OR
columbia river treaty1Over 150 people gathered at the Bonneville Power Administration building in Portland Oregon on the evening of September 6 to hear from Jill Smail, the chief negotiator for the U.S., and to share their concerns and priorities for the treaty and negotiations now under way. 
 
Ms. Smail made a 30 minute presentation on the history and significance of the treaty. Few details were provided about the status of negotiations between the two nations, which are confidential and ongoing before turning the microphone over the attendees to share their views and visions for the treaty. 
 
Portland’s Mayor Wheeler started off the public testimony with excellent comments focused on the importance of adding ecosystem function to the treaty and including tribes in the negotiations.  The state of Oregon's comments focused on their desire for more water for irrigation, continued low-cost hydropower and the potential risk to the state's economy should a major flood hit Portland. Navigation interests focused their comments on the importance of regulating river flows to support economic activity. 
 
A number of SOS partners and allies attended and/or testified, including John DeVoe of WaterWatch of Oregon, Jamison Cavallaro of the Sierra Club, Miles Johnson of Columbia Riverkeeper, Jessie Dye of Earth Ministry, and Raelene Gold of the League of Women Voters. Greg Haller, executive director of Pacific Rivers, highlighted a set of important points at the heart of a letter our U.S. Treaty Caucus recently sent to Ms. Smail that included the need for assured ecosystem flows, the creation of citizen advisory councils, the addition of a new representative to the U.S. Entity (currently dominated by dam agencies), and more. Chiara Rose, Northwest Representative of the Endangered Species Coalition, drew the important connection between a modernized treaty that will support healthy salmon populations and the survival and recovery of critically endangered Southern Resident orcas. Some residents questioned the State Department's logic of excluding the tribes from the negotiations. 

Media Link:

Conservation Groups: Make River Health Part of Columbia River Treaty Focus


orca.shutterstock6. Required Reading: A Round-up of Recent Media on Salmon, Orca and the Columbia-Snake River Basin.
(1) Tri-Cities Herald Guest Opinion: Just in case the Snake River dams go away (Nancy Hirsh, 8.31.2018)

(2) Seattle Times Guest Opinion: Grieving orca is a wake-up call for the health of Columbia (D.R. Michel, 9.7.2018)

(3) Truthout Guest Opinion: With Food Source Endangered, Southern Resident Killer Whales Face Extinction (Curtis Johnson, Sept 4)

(4) Columbia Rediviva: Hearts Like the Mountains (David James Duncan, 8.20.2018)

(5) Tri-Cities Herald Guest Opinion: Activist groups say give us our dammed Snake River back (Sam Mace, Buck Ryan, Brett VandenHeuvel, 8.23.2018)


(7) Jacob Schmidt Heads to Greece! A huge thank you to SOS' star organizing intern
JacobFaithSOS gives a warm send-off this week to Jacob & Faith Schmidt, who will soon embark on an overseas adventure beginning in Greece.

Jacob came to SOS as a volunteer in 2017, focusing his time on involving eastern Washington communities of faith in the effort to remove lower Snake dams to restore salmon and honor Treaty Rights. He gave presentations to local congregations and organized a field trip with people of faith on the lower Snake to meet with Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) leaders. He was the lead organizer on a series of gatherings hosted by churches this spring that brought together tribal members, people of faith, commercial fishermen and farmers to have a conversation about removing dams and restoring salmon to honor Treaty Rights and how communities can work together to ensure that fishermen and farmers are kept whole through this much-needed transition.

Jacob led a variety of other projects for SOS, including the Hot Water Project for 2018, which documented the hot water temperatures and other obstacles facing salmon on their journey through the Columbia-Snake River system. SOS is especially grateful for Jacob’s hard work on this year's Free the Snake Flotilla last weekend. This year’s flotilla was the largest yet, with more than 800 people participating over the course of the weekend.

And a special shout-out to Jacob’s wife, Faith. A talented graphic designer, she donated many hours designing post cards, posters and other outreach pieces for the SOS Team. A huge thanks to Faith!

The SOS family sends a Bon Voyage to Jacob and Faith as they set out on their adventure!

2018 has started fast and furious - and it shows no signs of slowing down! SOS staff and allies have been burning the candle at both ends to take advantage of key opportunities we’ve created – and to defend our hard-fought gains. A lot has happened – both good and bad – affecting Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead and their rivers and streams since our last newsletter in March/April. We appreciate your active support for our work. Read this longer-than-usual issue of Wild Salmon & Steelhead to get up to speed and learn how you can help! Thank you.

IN THIS ISSUE:

I. HR 3144 – the Salmon Extinction Act – passes the House: what it means and what’s next
II. Bad news - wild salmon and steelhead returns 2018: Recent returns and 2018 pre-season estimates
III. Good news - 2018 Lower Snake River Dams Energy Replacement Study finds replacing the lower Snake dams’ energy services feasible and affordable
IV. From the Inland Northwest: Landscape design students imagine a free-flowing Lewiston (ID) waterfront
V. Governor Inslee (WA) creates Emergency Orca Task Force – increasing prey (chinook salmon) numbers must be the top priority.
VI. Event Report: Phase II of “A Tale of Two Rivers” and the Patagonia film premiere: “Blue Heart”
VII. Save these dates!
-- 6/8/2018 in Portland OR: Celebrate 50 years of the Wild & Scenic Rivers with Sawyer Paddles & Oars and SOS
-- 9/7-9/8/2018 on the Lower Snake River: ‘Free the Snake’ Flotilla and Rally on the River with Winona LaDuke


I. HR 3144 – the Salmon Extinction Act – passes the House of Representatives: what it means and what’s next
congressOn April 25, HR 3144 – a bill that we’ve dubbed the Salmon Extinction Act – passed the House of Representatives roughly along party lines – with eight Democrats voting for and eight Republicans voting against. Introduced by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, 3144 as law would wreak havoc on all sorts of things we care about: salmon and orca, fishing communities, the courts, federal laws including the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. It would overturn the historic court decision salmon advocates won in 2016, rollback hard-fought protections (increased spill) for at-risk salmon and derail the court-ordered environmental review, including an analysis of lower Snake River dam removal.

Despite this loss in the House – an outcome we anticipated before the vote - with your help, salmon advocates and Northwest policymakers put up a strong fight. Allies in D.C. tell us we did very well, given the makeup of Congress today. Leading up to the vote, we secured the public opposition of Govs. Jay Inslee (WA) and Kate Brown (OR), Sen. Murray and Reps. Adam Smith (WA), Pramila Jayapal (WA) and Earl Blumenauer (OR). We organized hundreds of thousands grassroots contacts to Congressional members from across the country.

Working with allies, we organized a sign-on letter opposing 3144 from business associations and businesses across the West Coast; more than 25 regional and national conservation and fishing organizations sent letters to Congress urging its opposition to the ‘Salmon Extinction Act’.

So what’s next? We can still stop this harmful, backwards bill from going to the White House for Pres. Trump’s signature. As we have done before, we’ll need to work together to block further activity in the House and stop this bill in the Senate.

First the Senate: a version of this bill has been referred to the Environment and Public Works Committee, but it has not been formally introduced (yet!). We know that there is opposition to this bill in the Senate – led by Senator Murray (WA) and – at this time - we are not aware of any champions for this bill. That could change at any time, so we’re staying on-alert and will ask you for your help if this changes. And please let us know if you hear anything!

ACT NOW: Contact your Senators! - Ask them to oppose the "Salmon Extinction Act" and ensure it does not become law.

Second, back in the House, Rep. McMorris Rodgers is also pushing a ‘rider’ on an upcoming appropriations bill. The rider includes just one provision of 3144 – if this rider passes, it will roll back the increased spill to help endangered salmon that the court recently ordered and that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld when the dam agencies challenged it. The spending bill is scheduled for a vote in the Appropriations Committee this week and we're pushing allied Representatives to do all they can to remove this rider before this vote. Here again, successfully striking this bill will be hard given the composition of the House today. But we'll try!

In sum, the battle continues. The Salmon Extinction Act and/or rider would deliver a devastating blow if it becomes law, and we are doing all we can to defend the gains we've made for Columbia/Snake salmon and their rivers. Thank you very much for your attention and your help – Stay tuned!


II. Bad news: wild salmon and steelhead returns 2018: Recent returns and 2018 pre-season estimatesreturns.steelhead1
Tom Stuart, SOS Board Chair based in Boise, Idaho, has compiled the most recent adult returns for wild salmon and steelhead returning to the Snake River and its tributaries. In short, it’s bad and getting worse, especially for B-run steelhead. These fish desperately need additional help in the near-term. And given the tightening grip of climate change in combination with the immense harms caused by the federal system of dams and reservoirs, it is impossible to imagine a strategy that protects these irreplaceable wild fish as long as the four lower Snake River dams remain in place. Source: Idaho Fish and Game.
                

(1) Snake River Spring/summer chinook salmon:
ESA Status: Threatened.
Recovery goal: at least 80,000 wild adults per year for eight consecutive years.
2015: 21,000 wild fish at Lower Granite dam (LGR)
                
2016: 15,900 wild fish at Lower Granite dam (LGR)
                
2017: 4,108 wild fish at Lower Granite dam (LGR)

 
(2) Snake River Steelhead:
ESA Status: Threatened
Recovery goal: at least 90,000 wild adults per year for eight consecutive years.
                
2015-16: 39,300 wild fish at Lower Granite Dam
                
2016-17: 15,576 wild fish at Lower Granite Dam
                
2017-18: 12,981 wild fish at Lower Granite Dam
This includes only only 362 B-run steelhead. More about the amazing B-runs below)
 
(3) Snake River Sockeye Salmon:
ESA Status: Endangered
Recovery goal: at least 2500 wild/natural adults per year
 for eight consecutive years        
2015: 11 wild/natural fish (56 total reached Stanley Basin in central Idaho)
                
2016: 34 wild/natural fish (577 total reached Stanley Basin in central Idaho)
                
2017: 11 wild/natural fish (162 total reached Stanley Basin in central Idaho)

And here's a powerful new essay about the magic of - and great peril faced by - B-Run Steelhead - Extinction in the Heart of Idaho - by Pat Ford, former SOS executive director and one of our most dedicated, knowledgeable and articulate advocates for wild salmon and steelhead and their ecosystems.

More troubling evidence re: 2018 returns: the fisheries managers’ Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is forecasting a 2018 fall chinook run in the Columbia River that is 23 percent less than the actual number of fish that returned last year and about one-half of the (already very low) 10-year average.

The TAC is forecasting a fall chinook run in 2018 of 365,600 fish. That’s down from 2017’s actual run of 475,900 fish and far lower than 2017’s forecast of 582,600 fish.

The bottom line: the wild salmon and steelhead of the Columbia and Snake Rivers are in the midst of a new steep decline bringing them perilously close to extinction. By any metric, these irreplaceable fish are in deep trouble – as are the benefits they have delivered each and every year to the people, fish and wildlife, and ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. These fish need more help today, not less. HR 3144 is rightly named the Salmon (and Steelhead) Extinction Act. There is great urgency to act now - to protect and begin to rebuild these imperiled populations and their benefits - by protecting and restoring and reconnecting their river ecosystems.

Links to further resources:

Columbia Basin Bulletin: Harvest Managers Predict 23 Percent Decline In 2018 Fall Chinook Run, One-Half Of 10-Year AverageColumbia Basin Bulletin: Harvest Managers Predict 23 Percent Decline In 2018 Fall Chinook Run, One-Half Of 10-Year Average (March 2018)

Graphs: adult wild salmon and steelhead returns to the Snake River - 1950s - 2017


III. Good news - 2018 Lower Snake River Dams Energy Replacement Study finds replacing the lower Snake dams’ energy services is feasible and affordable
energy.study copyIn early April, SOS member organization NW Energy Coalition released its long-awaited analysis examining how we can replace the energy services provided by the lower Snake River dams. This groundbreaking study was conducted by Energy Strategies, a highly-respected energy consulting firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The study finds that we can replace the meager energy services provided by the lower Snake River dams feasibly, affordably, and with little to no additional carbon emissions. In fact, by removing these four costly dams and replacing them with clean renewables like solar and wind, the Northwest region can actually have a more reliable energy system than today. Further, the cost to replace the dams' energy with clean, renewable, salmon-friendly energy (thanks to plummeting prices of wind and solar resources) will amount to little more than one dollar per month per household for an average Northwest energy consumer.

Related, SOS and its member groups recently released the results of a poll of Washington State voters revealing their favorably changing views about wild salmon, orca, clean energy, and lower Snake River dam removal. The poll was very encouraging. A majority of voters support removing the lower Snake River dams to protect salmon from extinction – especially when it is coupled as part of a larger plan to replace the dams’ services (hydro-energy and barge transportation) with alternatives such as wind and solar, and upgraded railways. And the poll also found a majority of Washingtonians surveyed willing to pay as much as $7/month more on their electric bill to protect salmon from extinction.

This study blows up the mythology perpetuated by protectors of a failed status quo - that we must choose between clean, affordable energy and wild salmon and steelhead. This study also comes at a critical time – as the federal agencies are examining salmon recovery options – including dam removal - in the Columbia/Snake Basin's court ordered environmental review.

Here are some links to further information about the study and the poll:

Spokesman Review Guest Opinion: Dam removal study reveals a raft of benefits (May 10, 2018)

SOS press statement on the LSR dam power replacement study (April 2018)

2018 Lower Snake River Dam Power Replacement Study (April 2018)

Power Replacement Study - 1-page factsheet (April 2018)

Power Replacement Study - 4-page factsheet (April 2018)

2018 Poll of Washington State Voters re: Salmon and Dams – 4-page memo (March 2018)

Spokesman Review: Poll shows Washington voters choose salmon over dams (March 2018)


IV. From the Inland Northwest: Landscape Design Students Imagine a Freeflowing Lewiston Waterfront

Landscape Architecture students with Washington State University (WSU) spent the semester studying the lower Snake River and its dams as part of a project to re-design the waterfront for the city of Lewiston, Idaho if/when the dams are removed. They toured the river, met with stakeholders and researched the impacts to Lewiston, ID if the dams remain or are removed.

LewistonRevisionStudents’ designs were unveiled at a recent reception at the Lewiston City library, where the public was invited to take a look and listen to students discuss their design choices. All the students chose designs that re-imagined a free-flowing a river with the lower Snake River dams removed and focused on re-connecting the City of Lewiston to its river confluence where the Snake joins the Clearwater, currently cut off from the downtown by levees.

Designs ranged from a focus on urban development with shops, public walkways, to enhanced recreation access for boating, swimming and walking, to ecological restoration of the riparian area. All emphasized re-connecting people and the downtown core to the river.

Among the 40 people who came to view the designs and meet the students were many long-time residents of the Lewiston who shared fond memories of when the river was natural and free-flowing, before water was impounded behind dams and the Snake became more lake than river. They told stories of swimming at the beautiful beaches along the river and waterskiing during the lunch hour. They lamented that people who moved here after 1976 did not have firsthand knowledge of what has been lost.

The designs offer a starting point for a new conversation in Lewiston on what the waterfront can offer to the local economy and quality of life. Some residents in Lewiston want the dams to stay, but many people feel it is past time for a community conversation about dams going vs. staying, and the costs and benefits at stake. The designs make a strong argument for choosing a river over a reservoir. The exhibit is open to the public through the end of June at the downtown library. Stop in and take a look.

Read the Lewiston Morning Tribune story by Eric Barker.


V. Governor Inslee (WA) creates Emergency Orca Task Force – increasing prey (chinook salmon) supply must be top priority

inslee.orca.2018.1In mid-March, Joseph Bogaard (SOS) and other members of the Orca Salmon Alliance joined Governor Inslee and many others as he formally announced the creation of an Emergency Orca Task Force to address the urgent plight of critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales – or orcas. The Southern Residents were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2006.

Despite this “protection” the population has continued to decline. Today it is at a 30-year low – just 76 members of this unique community remain. Toxins and vessel noise are contributing problems, but the most urgent cause of decline is lack of food – namely chinook salmon which make up at least 80% of their diet. Protecting orca from extinction must focus effective near-term actions that will protect and restore salmon and their ecosystems, including in the Columbia-Snake Basin where the large, once highly salmon-productive basin still has tremendous chinook restoration potential – if we protect, restore and reconnect the rivers and streams they need. Increased spill is our most effective near-term action to increase salmon populations; dam removal will be far more beneficial of course, but require several years to plan and execute.

The Task Force is the first of its kind to address declining orca numbers. It represents a tremendous opportunity to tackle big problems that we have long known existed, but it is important to remember that the Task Force will only succeed with relentless public attention and pressure demanding science-based action and bold political leadership. There is little mystery about what needs to be done to meet the needs of orca; it is truly a question of whether we have the political will to act. The Task Force and the Governor must both move forward with great urgency and with a commitment to actions and measures that protect and restore resilient habitats, ecosystem function and connectivity. Especially in the face of a changing climate, we must increase our faith in nature and rely less on the types of technology-centered strategies that have put us, salmon and orca in the fix we’re in.

orca.salmonThe Task Force first met on May 1. There are three working groups for prey, toxins and vessel interference. The Task Force is charged with delivering action recommendations to the Governor by October 2018. Fortunately, a good number of SOS leaders and allies have been invited to join the Task Force and its working groups. We have a lot of work ahead.

ACT NOW (for Washington State residents): Contact Gov. Inslee - ask for his support for more spill now at the Columbia and Snake River dams!

Here are several links to media coverage and the Governor’s Task Force webpage with further information, including the Task Force Executive Order and members, and a recent letter from the Orca Salmon Alliance that SOS contributed to.

Governor Inslee's Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery and Task Force KING5: Orca Protection Order signed by Inslee (May 1, 2018)

Orca Salmon Alliance letter to Governor Inslee and the members of the Orca Task Force (May 1, 2018)


VI. Event Report: Phase II of “A Tale of Two Rivers” and a Patagonia premiere of “Blue Heart”
In late April, SOS had the honor of partnering a second time with Lynda Mapes (Seattle Times), Rocky Barker (Idaho Statesman) and Jeff Renner (retired, KING5) for a second set of ‘A Tale of Two Rivers’ presentations – this time in Olympia (WA) and Portland (OR). Once again, the conversation focused on the amazing Elwha River/ecosystem restoration success story. The world’s largest dam removal (to date) was completed five years ago and this ecosystem, its fish and wildlife and nearby human communities have been in restoration mode ever since. This speaker series also focused in on the fast changing dynamics on the lower Snake River and escalating pressure to restore this river and its wild salmon and steelhead by removing its four deadbeat dams.blue.heart

Later this spring we’ll release an hour-long video file of our inaugural discussion in Seattle back in January, in case you’d like to see the discussion. Stay tuned.

SOS was also honored to join Patagonia staff in Seattle on May 10 for the premiere of Blue Heart – a powerful, troubling and inspiring new film produced by Patagonia spotlighting the people’s campaigns in the Balkan region of southeast Europe to resist an onslaught of dam-building projects. Nearly 3000 projects are being planned and/or underway thanks to an unholy alliance of banks, dam builders and pliable politicians.
Learn more about saving the Blue Heart of Europe – including a 2-minute trailer and screening schedule.

A huge shout-out to Yvon Chouinard and the amazing people at Patagonia for their tremendous leadership to spotlight and support critical environmental battles and priorities in the United States and around the world.


VII. Save these dates! Mark your calendars!

SOS SAWYER Event6/8/2018: Celebrate ‘50 years of the 'Wild & Scenic Rivers Act’ with ‘Sawyer Paddles and Oars’ – in a benefit for SOS!

Sawyer Paddles and Oars has teamed up with SOS in 2018 to promote healthy, resilient native fish and rivers in the Northwest. Sawyer is featuring limited edition oars with beautiful artwork from Link Jackson, Ty Hallock and other artists. Every sale benefits SOS.

We’re also co-hosting a celebration of 50 years of Wild & Scenic Rivers in America – with a fun, public event in Portland (OR) on the evening of June 8 – featuring Hank Patterson as the evening’s emcee, films from Shane Anderson, food and refreshments, and an auction with art, trips, gear, and more!

For further information:

FB event page: Celebrate ‘50 years of Wild & Scenic Rivers’ with ‘Sawyer Paddles and Oars' -- June 8

Sawyer Paddles and Oars Artisan Squaretop Oars featuring America's native fish

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9/7-9/8/2018: 4th Annual Rally and Flotilla to ‘Free the Snake’ with Winona LaDuke.winona.2018.1

Hundreds of salmon, steelhead, orca, river and treaty rights advocates will gather on the river for our 4th Annual Rally to 'Free the Snake!' on September 7 and 8 this year. Thanks to Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, this year we'll have a very special guest: Winona LaDuke.

The founder of Honor the Earth, Winona LaDuke is a leading indigenous rights activist from the Ojibwa Nation in Minnesota. She has spent her life rebuilding indigenous communities and fighting against pipelines and other dirty energy projects for more than 30 years.

Join us for our 4th Annual Rally on the River – for food, camping, speakers, live music - and to join forces with others in support of restoring the lower Snake River and its endangered wild salmon and steelhead.

Find more information here: FreeTheSnake.com or contact jacob@wildsalmon.org

 

 

 

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