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.
IN THIS ISSUE:
- WELCOME CARRIE HERRMAN – SOS’ NEW OUTREACH COORDINATOR!
- NIMIIPUU RIVER RENDEZVOUS 2019: A GATHERING TO SUPPORT A FREE-FLOWING SNAKE RIVER, SEPT 20-22, LEWISTON, IDAHO
- NEW ECONOMIC STUDY FINDS THE BENEFITS OF REMOVING LSR DAMS OUTWEIGH THE COSTS
- THREE MORE SOUTHERN RESIDENT ORCAS DECLARED DEAD, POPULATION NOW JUST 73 WHALES
- DISMAL SALMON RETURNS ACROSS THE BASIN IN 2019 SPELLS TROUBLE FOR ORCA AND COMMUNITIES
- ‘DAMMED TO EXTINCTION’ DOCUMENTARY RECEIVES CRITICAL ACCLAIM, INSPIRING AND MOBILIZING THE PUBLIC
- ACT NOW! HOW YOU CAN HELP ENDANGERED SALMON AND ORCA TODAY
Save 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
A 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:
Three 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)
Daily Kos: Endangered orcas' fate is tied to a series of dams 400 miles inland (September 1, 2019)
Throughout 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:
The 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:
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!