1. Salmon Win in Court - More Dam Spill, More Dam Scrutiny!
2. Idaho Advocates Call on NOAA: “Stop barging and leave fish in the river!”
3. SOS leaders attend Tribal Treaty Rights Conference in Lewiston, Idaho
4. Dam Debate: SOS and IRU go toe-to-toe with former Congressman Doc Hastings at WSU
5. Make Redfish Lake Redd Again! The Ride for Redd kicks off in Astoria, Oregon
6. Orca in the News: The Seattle Stranger: Is Anyone Going to Save the Endangered Killer Whales in Puget Sound Before It's Too Late?
Support the work of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition on May 10 with GIVEBIG 2017!
Mark your calendars! The Seattle Foundation’s big day of giving is fast approaching! You can make an online pledge starting on April 27. We’re talking with a few supporters to arrange for a fundraising match. If you are interested in contributing to our match, please contact us ASAP. Stay tuned for further details and thank you as always for your support!
1. Salmon Win in Court - More “Dam” Spill, More “Dam” Scrutiny!
On March 27, the federal judge overseeing the court case on Columbia/Snake River salmon and dams issued a two-part decision regarding salmon/fishing plaintiffs’ (joined by the State of Oregon and Nez Perce Tribe's) request for injunctive relief to help endangered salmon. In order to provide additional, much-needed help for migrating salmon, Judge Michael Simon ordered additional spill starting in 2018. While he denied plaintiffs' request to bar specific spending on the lower Snake River dams, he did order the agencies to provide greater transparency on their spending plans in a timely fashion for lower Snake dams so that salmon plaintiffs have an opportunity to challenge that spending if warranted. We’re worried that agencies will pour tens or hundreds of millions of dollars into these dams in the next few years before the NEPA Review is completed, and bias their upcoming decisions on whether to remove these four dams.
Mother Nature Comes to the Rescue: Plaintiffs asked the Court to order expanded levels of spill starting immediately – April 2017, but it decided to provide the Defendant Agencies some time to prepare for this change. So the higher spill levels will start next April. Conservation and fishing groups first won court-ordered, salmon-helping spill - water releases over the dams during the spring-summer migration - in 2005, over the vehement objections of the dam agencies.
Fortunately for salmon (and orcas, fishing communities and many others), Mother Nature has blessed us with a heavy snowpack this winter. In fact, we have so much water moving in these rivers this spring that the dams can’t handle it all and we are in what’s called “involuntary spill” mode. Mother Nature is pushing water over the dams far in excess of what the Court has ordered. This is very good news for juvenile salmon en route to the ocean. They will arrive more quickly, more safely and with less stress, less predation and less effort than they would have under more “normal” river/migration conditions. And this will translate into larger adult returns in a few years, than we would otherwise expect. Look for more from us on spill conditions this spring and summer!
Follow these links to the judge’s decision, a few choice excerpts from the ruling, and media coverage on the recent Court decision to grant plaintiffs injunctive relief in the form of increased spill and scrutiny on spending on the dams.
2. Idaho advocates to NOAA: “Stop barging and leave the fish in the river!”
In mid-April, Idaho conservation groups (Idaho Rivers United, Friends of the Clearwater, Idaho Sierra Club, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Wildlife Federation, Snake River Waterkeeper and a north Idaho chapter of Trout Unlimited) called on the federal government to end barging of Snake River sockeye salmon, a practice that harms Idaho’s most imperiled and endangered salmon.
In a letter to NOAA Fisheries and the Army Corps of Engineers—the two agencies in charge of fish passage at dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers—the groups said "artificial transportation of endangered sockeye interferes with the fish’s homing ability, making them even more vulnerable to hot water and other dam-related challenges they face when they return as adults.”
In 2015, 95+ percent of Idaho’s returning adult sockeye salmon were killed before reaching their spawning gravels high in the Rockies due to two months of steady hot water in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Idaho’s sockeye salmon are the most endangered in the Columbia Basin, and any measures we can take to bolster survival are imperative.
“This request is based on NOAA’s own science,” said IRU Executive Director Kevin Lewis. “That science says sockeye that are hauled around dams in barges have a smaller chance of surviving than those left in the river to migrate on their own.”
Sockeye salmon were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act 26 years ago, in 1991, and 25 years ago a lone sockeye salmon dubbed Lonesome Larry returned to Redfish Lake in central Idaho, drawing attention to the plight of Idaho’s salmon from around the nation.
“Since the 1990s when sockeye populations consistently hovered in the single digits, fish biologists have prevented extinction of the species through a captive broodstock program run by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, but this iconic species is still in big trouble,” said Sierra Club Idaho Director Zack Waterman. “Instead of employing actions like barging, which works against recovery, we should be focusing more on measures like spilling water at the dams, a practice proven to help fish.”
The bottom line (and it should come as no surprise!): the more the river system works and acts like a river, the better wild salmon do.
Press release and link to the letter to NOAA-Fisheries: Idaho groups seek end to barging Idaho’s sockeye salmon
3. SOS leaders attend Tribal Treaty Rights Conference in Lewiston Idaho
What does it mean to be an "ethical colonist?" This question was one of several provocative conversations at the Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment conference on March 17. The event explored the role and relevance of treaties in the ongoing environmental battles in which Native Americans and their allies are engaged.
The conference - held ironically in the Red Lion’s “Seaport Club” in Lewiston Idaho - began with a performance by the Lightning Creek Drummers and the presentation of the Eagle staff alongside the flag of the United States. Day One focused first on the history, significance and meaning today of 150+ year old treaties signed by the Native American tribes and the United States goverment. Gary Dorr, a member of the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) Tribe and a litigant against the Keystone XL pipeline set a tone for the 2-day event as he invoked the Tribes' moral, legal, and political authority in their struggles and guarantees under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The panel discussion that followed considered the position of Native Americans today. Nez Perce Tribal Chair Mary Jane Miles spoke of the slow movement of her people in a fast-paced world, both as a difficulty when defending their rights against new threats, and a trait that sets Native peoples apart. Activist Jacqueline Keeler communicated confidence and optimism as she discussed the growing power and influence of historic treaties in the 21st Century, non-western ways of thinking, and the new inter-tribal solidarity that the world witnessed at Standing Rock in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. A central theme of the discussion was that those of us who came here to occupy land once belonging to the tribes cannot escape our colonial heritage. Despite this history, a new “ethical colonism” is possible, but requires wholly new approaches to working and sharing power with Native people.
The afternoon sessions began with a panel of Earthjustice attorneys who spoke about their work representing tribal interests in court that connect with legal recognition of treaties, and the limited applicability of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the United States has yet to officially recognize this declaration.
Sam Mace led the day's final discussion with Steve Mashuda, Kevin Lewis, John Sirois, Nathan Piengkham and Rebecca Miles. They tackled the state of play in the battle to protect and restore Columbia Basin salmon and to "Free the Snake!" John and Nathan highlighted work using canoe projects as tremendous opportunities to bring tribal people together and build a strong sense of community. Rebecca spoke about the importance of recovering lamprey to the Nimiipuu and other Tribal communities, and Steve recounted key milestones in the legal struggle to restore wild salmon by removing the four lower Snake River dams.
In addition to these and other panels and presentations, the conference brought together more than 150 Tribal and non-Tribal participants to meet, greet and learn from each other.
4. Dam Debate: SOS and IRU go toe-to-toe with Congressman Doc Hastings at WSU.
Washington State University in Pullman, WA hosted a debate on March 28 spotlighting the fate and future of the lower Snake River dams. Many students attended the debate in person and others were able to watch it streaming on Facebook Live.
Save Our wild Salmon’s Inland Northwest Director Sam Mace and Idaho River United’s Executive Director Kevin Lewis went toe-to-toe with former Congressman Doc Hastings and the conservative think-thank Washington Policy Center’s Director Todd Myers. Doc Hastings represented the 4th Congressional District in eastern Washington between 1995 and 2014 and was notorious for his unrelenting attacks on popular laws that safeguard our nation's environmental health - including the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act - and agencies like the EPA. Mr. Hastings remains an unwavering defender of all dams, regardless of their costs to taxpayers, communities and economy, or their impacts on ecosystems, fish and wildlife populations.
Video of the debate is not available, but Sam Mace squared off with Todd Myers the following morning on the radio – and you can listen to their lively discussion here: LISTEN: WSU Sound Policy: Select Episode 5: Should the Snake River dams be removed?
This April, in partnership with SOS-member organization Idaho Rivers United, three women and their horses embarked on "Ride For Redd" - a nine-hundred mile trek from the mouth of the Columbia River in Astoria to the salmon spawning grounds of Redfish Lake in the Rocky Mountains of central Idaho to bring attention to diminishing salmon runs. Their journey will take them up the Columbia, Snake, and Salmon rivers - to finally reach Redfish Lake at more than 6,000 feet in elevation. Red Fish is home for both Kat Cannell and the critically-endangered Snake River sockeye salmon.
Kat is the leader of this journey. In 2016 she rode more than 1,000 miles on horseback, much of it alone. She grew up in Stanley Idaho where the loss of salmon runs has been felt profoundly. Katelyn Spradley is a horse lover at heart, but when she’s out of the saddle can be found rock climbing, kayaking, fly fishing, snowboarding, or guiding all of the above. MJ Wright is a young rider and rancher from northern Nevada who couldn’t pass up the chance to join in the adventure. These women are riding to inspire progressives, conservatives, farmers, tree huggers, anglers, city dwellers, and everyone in our country to fall in love and stand up for Idaho's irreplaceable wild salmon and steelhead populations and the rivers they depend upon.
Ride for Redd gets its name from the spawning nests - redds - built by female salmon in which to lay their eggs. The name also refers to the historic Redfish Lake, named for the color it turned as a result of the crimson-colored sockeye salmon that once returned in late summer/early fall in much higher numbers than today.
You can also follow Kat and Katekyn on Facebook.
6. Orca in the News: The Stranger - Is Anyone Going to Save the Endangered Killer Whales in Puget Sound Before It's Too Late?
By Christopher Frizzelle, March 22, 2017
In September of 2016, the oldest living orca known to science, J2, was photographed near San Juan Island from a drone. Matriarch of the southern residents, a population of killer whales that lives in Puget Sound and is unique on the planet, J2 got her name because she was the second orca to be positively identified by scientists at the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island during the first census of southern resident killer whales, conducted in 1976. The Center for Whale Research also assigns nicknames, and because J2 was so old when scientists first identified her, the nickname she got was "Granny."
"We do not know her precise age because she was born long before our study began," Ken Balcomb, the marine mammal biologist who founded the Center for Whale Research, explained. "In 1987, we estimated that she was at least 45 years old and was more likely to have been 76 years old." By 2016, she was estimated to be somewhere from 74 to 105 years old.
When she was seen near San Juan Island in September, she did not look good. Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Southwest Fisheries Science Center and Vancouver Aquarium noted J2's "thin body shape" and "relatively poor" condition. One thing that distinguishes southern residents from other kinds of killer whales is that southern residents eat only salmon. In fact, 80 percent of the southern resident diet is specifically Chinook salmon—and just like the southern residents themselves, Chinook salmon is on the endangered species list. There used to be plentiful Chinook salmon in local waters, especially where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean and where the Fraser River meets the Salish Sea, but now wild Chinook is scarce.
Read the full article here.