sos.logo1IN THIS ISSUE

1. DamNation: winning awards, capturing the public's imagination - and now available online, in DVD and iTunes!

2.  Columbia River Treaty: Two important letters delivered to the White House this spring.

3.  The fight continues: In search of a lawful plan that protects and restores salmon and steelhead.

4.  Stuck in the Mud:  Sediment Plan from the Army Corps expected this summer.

5.  Salmon Mean Business:  Thanks to Boundary Bay Brewery, Siren's Pub and Village Books!

 1. DamNation: winning awards, capturing the public's imagination - and now available online, in DVD and iTunes!

DamNaitonpromo2DamNation continues to win awards and inspire new river advocates. Premiering at SXSW in Austin TX in March, this film has now been seen by tens of thousands of people coast to coast, garnered national media attention and critical acclaim.  And now the number of viewers is about to skyrocket as the film is now available for instant streaming on DVD and iTunes!
DamNation brings national attention to a movement that has been quietly, steadily building over the last two decades in every corner of our country. Removing out-dated, costly dams and restoring healthy rivers is good for communities, fish and wildlife, and the economy, and it is an excellent antidote to the warming impacts of climate change. This outstanding film shows how dam removal is going mainstream – while serving up the four lower Snake River dams as what’s on the horizon.
In just four months, DamNation has drawn critical acclaim and proven itself a people’s favorite at film festivals - garnering seven juried and four audience awards.
Patagonia, Felt Soul Media, and Stoecker Ecological have been all over the country since March attending festival premieres and community screenings. Every Patagonia store in the nation hosted a screening on June 5th, including in Washington D.C.  SOS’ Sam Mace, Nez Perce Tribe Executive Director Rebecca Miles and former Corps staff Jim Waddell (both featured in the film) attended the screening and spent the week on Capitol Hill meeting with the Administration and members of Congress to talk DamNation and the lower Snake River dams. 
This spring, SOS has worked with scores of other organizations, businesses, and community leaders to screen the film to thousands of people as part of a Northwest film tour that will continue through 2015. It is attracting large crowds who leave the theatre moved and motivated. Our Q&A sessions afterward featuring stakeholders and people from the film like Ms. Miles and Mr. Waddell are keeping people in their seats and generating excellent discussions.
Visit our DamNation project page to learn about upcoming Northwest shows.
Go here to find out about shows across the nation – or to learn about how you can host a screening in your community.

2.  Columbia River Treaty: Two important letters delivered to the White House this spring

col.gorgeFirst, the Environmental Protection Agency on the Columbia River Treaty and Regional Recommendation.

In early April this year, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy sent an excellent letter to Secretary of State John Kerry responding  to the Northwest's Dec. 2013 "Regional Recommendation" expressing the agency's views on the opportunities of and needs for modernizing the the fifty-year old U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty.

While acknowledging significant benefits of the Treaty to date, the letter also highlights some of its harmful impacts on the environment and the Basin's Tribal and non-tribal communities as a result of key omissions in the original agreement.

The EPA expresses it support for modernizing the Treaty by:

- fully integrating 'ecosystem function' (health of the river) as a new, third Treaty purpose that considers water quality, fish and wildlife, cultural needs, and economic sustainability and addresses climate change.

- providing the Columbia River Basin Tribes a role in developing and implementing a modern Columbia River Treaty.

It closes by saying "The EPA believes that a modern treaty with Canada will provide multiple benefits to the Pacific Northwest and that a strong commitment to a healthy Columbia River ecosystem will protect human health and safety and promote a strong regional economy in both the U.S. and Canada."

Second – The Northwest congressional delegation says “aye” to moving forward with Columbia River Treaty negotiations

We’re not sure if this has ever happened before: all 26 members of the Northwest congressional delegation – from all four states, both chambers of Congress and both sides of the aisle – signed a letter to President Obama last month, urging timely action on the United States’ efforts to renegotiate the Columbia River Treaty with Canada. The letter underscores the need for the State Department’s active engagement on Treaty negotiations within the next few months in order to ensure that the Northwest’s Regional Recommendation for Treaty modernization can move forward in 2015:

In our view, it is essential that the Administration now advance this work through discussions with Canada to ensure that a post-2024 Treaty better reflects the interests of our constituents in the region and in the United States as a whole….We agree that it is critical that this process move forward in a timely fashion in order to best position the United States for a positive outcome in future discussions with Canada.

While the delegation’s letter is silent on specific aspects of the Regional Recommendation – such as the need to consider ecosystem function as part of the Treaty’s purposes – its call for timely action on Treaty renegotiation is great news for the Northwest and all who care about modernizing this 50-year-old framework so that it provides the benefits and protections that the Columbia Basin needs in the 21st Century.

With the entire Northwest delegation on board, we hope the Obama Administration is listening.

3.  The fight continues: In search of a lawful plan that protects and restores salmon and steelhead.

sockeye.webDeja vu all over again. Groundhog Day (Bill Murray-style). Same <stuff>, different day.

Each of these expressions has been used at one time or another over the last 8 or 9 months to describe the virtually-unchanged Columbia-Snake salmon plan issued by federal agencies – first in draft form last September and then in final form in January. And while these phrases are entirely accurate – the 2014 federal salmon plan is almost identical to the illegal 2008/2010 plan it’s supposed to replace – they may not tell the full story. Sure, the federal agencies have issued three illegal plans in a row, and now we have a fourth attempt that manages to both repeat the mistakes of the past and roll back existing salmon protections.

But what this string of inadequate and failed plans really tells us is that the federal agencies seem intent on a lowest-common-denominator approach to safeguarding Columbia Basin salmon from the impacts of the hydropower system. Rather than ask questions like, “What do salmon actually need in order to survive and recover?” or “What does real salmon restoration look like and how do we get there?” – it’s as though our federal salmon managers are asking, “What’s the absolute minimum we can get by with under the law?” or “How can we redefine success under the Endangered Species Act so that things look a whole lot better than they really are?”

After nearly two decades of creatively reinterpreting the ESA, assiduously avoiding meaningful and substantial changes to the hydrosystem (where the bulk of salmon mortality occurs), touting habitat improvements as a means to mitigate for the harm caused by the dams despite a lack of evidence showing that such mitigation actually works, and, more recently, sidestepping any attempt to address the clear and present danger posed by climate change, the federal agencies have shown that their eagerness to protect the status quo apparently trumps their interest in ensuring the longterm protection and recovery of salmon and steelhead. Pacific Northwest residents, salmon-reliant businesses, and American taxpayers deserve more – as do the very species we’re supposed to be restoring.

With such stubborn recalcitrance, we can only assume that the federal government is content returning to court. Since the 2008/2010 salmon plan was ruled illegal almost three years ago (leading to the current plan that was issued in January), conservation and fishing groups have strongly and repeatedly urged, on occasions too numerous to list – that the Obama Administration seize the opportunity to end the cycle of poor decision-making and litigation and convene a solutions-driven process that brings together a range of stakeholders from across the Columbia Basin to find a durable path forward on this complex, long-running challenge.

No dice.

More recently, over the last year, salmon advocates, along with the State of Oregon, the Nez Perce Tribe, and others, have proposed a collaborative experimental spill program that could do wonders for salmon survival and productivity – another opportunity to perhaps take a break from the ongoing litigation. Again, the answer so far has been a resounding NO! (and if you’re an electricity ratepayer in the Northwest, you may be interested to know that Bonneville Power Administration has been leading the charge in the region to squash a salmon spill experiment; indeed, it may be safe to say that they’ve spared no expense to ensure this tremendously promising effort doesn’t get off the ground).

So a return to the courtroom seems inevitable – and, in the absence of any kind of collaborative process or willingness to consider new measures like expanded spill, a necessary next step toward ensuring our endangered Columbia and Snake River salmon receive the near-term protections they need - and that the law requires.

4.  Stuck in the mud:  Corps of Engineers expected to release plan to address lower Snake sediment problem

seaportAfter 6 years of delay, the Army Corps of Engineers is expected to release a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on its plans to address the growing sediment problem in the lower Snake River, particularly behind the farthest upstream dam, Lower Granite.
The FEIS was originally scheduled for release last summer but was delayed when the Corps recognized that its plan was unlikely to pass legal, economic, or scientific muster.

Sediment has piled up behind Lower Granite far more quickly than expected since Lower Granite was finished in 1975. The reservoir is more than 55 percent full of sediment, disrupting the barge transportation system, undermining Port of Lewiston activities, and creating a flood risk for nearby towns Clarkston, WA and Lewiston, ID. As the rivers fills with sediment, the level of the river rises.  Reminiscent of New Orleans, one can stand on the levees along the Snake River and see that Lewiston's historic downtown would now be underwater - but for those levees.

With millions of cubic yards of sediment piling up, the Corps can't dredge its way out of this big problem.  Ultimately, the Corps faces two choices:  raise the levees and further wall the local towns off from their river or remove (at least) Lower Granite dam.  But the people of Lewiston are deadset against raising levees.  And the Corps, for the moment, refuses to consider dam removal as a viable option.  So the Corps appears content to punt the problem down the road by dredging "problem areas" and thereby "manage" sediment as it enters the river.  Good luck with that.

One thing's for sure:  dealing with this sediment is going to be very expensive over the long run, especially if levees are raised down the road.  Ultimately, bridges and roads will need to be moved when levees eventually reach 4 feet high.  And then there are the impacts to clean water and imperiled salmon from the Corps' current focus on dredging.

Is it time to call the question and have an honest conversation?  Is it time to weigh the mounting costs of dealing with sediment (not to mention other maintenance issues facing these aging dams)?  Especially when barge shipping on the lower Snake has fallen more than 70 percent in the past decade as shippers switch to rail, truck and the far more competitive lower Columbia waterway?  The fact is: the costs of maintaining the dams is rising fast while the benefits of the dams are declining.  And the Corps must justify further spending of taxpayer dollars on this money-losing endeavor.

The Corps final sediment EIS is an opportunity to further this larger conversation.  It's about a lot more than mud.  Soon, a 30-day public comment period will begin.  We hope you join us is demanding the Corps to explain why we should continue spending tens of millions of tax dollars on a waterway in decline that's not paying its own way, and ask them to include dam removal among the options on the table to address the "mud problem."  Stay tuned!

5.  Salmon Mean Business!

These three Washington-based businesses have been wonderful – helping SOS and other groups and businesses to host receptions and screenings of DamNation. We are extremely grateful for their support and their recognition of the benefits and values of abundant salmon populations and healthy rivers and watersheds.

BBB.logoBoundary Bay Brewery:  Boundary Bay Brewery’s been making great handcrafted beer and fresh, local food for the Bellingham (WA) community since 1995! The brewery houses a Tap Room and family-friendly Bistro, located in a restored historic 1922 warehouse in downtown.  They also have a great deck for outdoor dining and a beer garden where you can enjoy BBQ's and outdoor concerts in the Summer.

Sirenspub.logoSiren’s Pub: Owned by Kris Nelson, Sirens Pub in Port Townsend on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula has a full menu of delectable offerings with 11 micro brews on tap, and a extensive bar you’re sure to find just what you want. Kris also owns and operates serving the delicious and varied foods and wines of the Meditteranean.  In the summer the deck is a favorite of locals and tourists alike.  In the winter cozy up to the fireplace.  Live music on Friday and Saturday nights!

VB.logoVillage Books: Village Books is a community-based, independent bookstore located in the Historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, Washington, where it has been awarded the Tourism Business of the Year by the members of the Convention & Visitors Bureau. Since 1980, Village Books has been Whatcom County, Washington's "Community Bookshop for Browsing."



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