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. Find out how SOS is helping to lead efforts 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 and help protect and restore healthy, abundant and fishable populations.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. “New” Federal Salmon Plan (FEIS) fails salmon, orca and communities...again!
2. Constituents in Washington’s 6th Congressional District send letters to Congressman Derek Kilmer
3. The waters are too hot! 2020 ‘Hot Water Report’ for the Columbia-Snake rivers!
4. Report from the Lower Columbia River: Poor Salmon Returns = Limited Fishing Opportunity
5. Restoring a River: Snake River Vision Project - Wawawai
6. Here's Some Good News: River/Salmon Success Stories - Restoring the Nooksack and Pilchuck Rivers!
1. "NEW" FEDERAL SALMON PLAN (FEIS) FAILS SALMON, ORCA AND COMMUNITIES… AGAIN.
On July 31st, federal agencies released their Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and 2020 Biological Opinion - their "new" plan for endangered Snake and Columbia salmon and steelhead populations. They did not choose lower Snake River dam removal, of course, and instead continued an approach that has proven costly, inadequate and illegal for the past 25+ years. Their plan includes “flexible spill” at the dams, a measure that is already in place and while it may help buy some time, it will not protect, much less restore, critically endangered salmon and steelhead populations.
The FEIS and BiOp were ordered by the U.S. District Court in Portland in 2016 when it invalidated the agencies’ previous (2014) plan for Columbia-Snake River Basin salmon. They follow five previous management plans (BiOps) that have all been rejected by the courts as illegal because they did not adequately protect salmon and steelhead endangered by the federal system of dams.
At SOS, we didn’t expect this FEIS to recommend dam removal. After 25+ years, $17 billion and no recovery in sight, it's become all-too-clear that the federal agencies can't, or won't, solve the linked and urgent crises facing endangered salmon and orcas and struggling communities in the Pacific Northwest. Snake River salmon and Southern Resident orcas are facing extinction today. A comprehensive solution led by the region's elected leaders - Governors, Senators, Members of Congress - must be our urgent path forward from here.
An effective solution for salmon must move beyond historic conflicts, bring people together and proactively address four connected issues:
- Restoring abundant, fishable salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia Basin
- Honoring our nation’s treaty commitments to Native American Tribes.
- Protecting and investing in the vitality of local farming and fishing communities, and
- Continuing the region’s legacy of providing reliable, affordable, clean energy.
With the release of another woefully inadequate plan for the Columbia Basin, salmon, fishing and orca advocates and many others are calling again on Northwest policymakers to work closely and urgently with sovereigns, stakeholders, and citizens to develop a solution that restores a freely flowing lower Snake River and invests in Northwest communities and infrastructure.
For further information, here are some of the recent press stories on the “new” federal plan:
-- Seattle Times: Snake River dams will not be removed to save salmon (July 31)
2. CONSTITUENTS IN WASHINGTON'S 6TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT SEND SIGN-ON LETTERS TO CONGRESSMAN DEREK KILMER
Following the recent release of the “new” Federal Salmon Plan, Save Our Wild Salmon, Sierra Club and Earth Ministry delivered two constituent sign-on letters to Congressman Derek Kilmer (WA – 6th C.D.) applauding his leadership and urging him to continue to encourage and support stakeholder-driven conversations to develop a comprehensive regional solution that restores abundant salmon populations and meets the needs of fishing, farming and Tribal communities. SOS and Sierra Club delivered a letter signed by 343 6th C.D. residents, including seven state legislators - Sens. Kevin Van De Wege (24th LD), Christine Rolfes (23rd LD) and Emily Randall (26th LD) and Reps. Mike Chapman and Steve Tharinger (24th LD) and Sherry Appleton and Drew Hansen (23rd LD). Also signing were the City of Port Angeles, by city council vote, and more than two dozen local elected officials from around the district.
The letter delivered by Earth Ministry was signed by Lutheran Bishop Richard Jaech and 76 other clergy and lay leaders from the 6th Congressional District. It states that “the Christian tradition says that faith without works is dead (James 2:26)” and asks Rep. Kilmer to continue to put his “faith into action to lead the region in a new approach that centers collaboration toward win-win solutions.”
Contact Congressman Kilmer! IF YOU LIVE IN Washington State's 6th Congressional District: visit Rep. Kilmer’s online ‘comment page’ to thank him for his leadership to date and encourage his continued and urgent efforts to support a plan that restores salmon and orcas and sustains healthy communities.
3. THE WATERS ARE TOO HOT! 2020 'HOT WATER REPORT' FOR THE COLUMBIA-SNAKE RIVERS!
Have you seen Save Our wild Salmon Coalition’s 2020 Hot Water Reports?! These weekly reports in July and August track hot water temperatures in the reservoirs created by the federal dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers. Read our reports to learn how warming waters have become routine in summer and are harming cold-water species of salmon and steelhead that rely on the rivers and streams of the Columbia Basin. These reports also highlight related issues including dam removal/river restoration success stories, adult salmon and steelhead returns, information on the “new” (and woefully inadequate!) Federal Salmon Plan, other fish and wildlife species at risk and more.
The Pacific Northwest’s once-abundant anadromous native fish are struggling to survive today, in significant part due to the harmful impacts of dams and reservoirs on their rivers - and now made worse by a changing climate. With the 2020 HWR, we’re highlighting these problems and exploring solutions and the opportunities they present to improve the Northwest’s culture, economy, and environment.
Want to check out the reports from this and previous summers? See our Hot Water Reports - compiled!
This year, SOS’ Hot Water Report partners include Sierra Club, Columbia Riverkeeper, Idaho Rivers United, Idaho Wildlife Federation, Snake River Waterkeeper, Northwest Steelheaders, Orca Conservancy, Idaho Conservation League, Defenders of Wildlife, Pacific Rivers, Natural Resources Defense Council, American Rivers, and Friends of the Clearwater.
4. REPORT FROM THE LOWER RIVER: POOR SALMON RETURNS = LIMITED FISHING OPPORTUNITY
Many fishing people have been sitting idle along the lower Columbia River this summer - and most recently sidelined from the traditional salmon fishing opener on August 1st. Historically at this time of year, anxious anglers and critical revenues flood into Washington’s coastal communities and Oregon’s towns along the lower river. These are visitors and dollars that help sustain scores of tourism-dependent communities through the lean months of winter. This year, however, there simply aren’t enough salmon or opportunities to fish.
From the lower Columbia River communities up into the small towns of central Idaho, 2020 has been a very tough year for everyone who relies on the river and its fish. On the lower river, a meager 14-day fishing season is all sport anglers will be allowed to enjoy this August. With coho returns declining, the towns of Astoria, Illwaco, and Chinook will see visitors vanish as soon as the summer and fall chinook runs pass through - leaving people hoping for better returns in the year ahead.
There may be one bright spot for Columbia River salmon this year: the summer Chinook return - sometimes a bellwether for the fall Chinook that arrive soon after - is coming back slightly larger than expected. We’ll have to wait for the actual fish to come before we know for sure.
So while spring chinook returns to the Columbia-Snake system were dismal this year, summer Chinook and sockeye on the Columbia River may be slightly improved above the low numbers predicted by fish managers earlier this year.
Unfortunately, the sockeye salmon returning to the Snake River are a different story: just 412 sockeye have been counted to date at Lower Granite Dam, a return that remains far below the levels needed to recover this critically endangered population. Summer steelhead also remain in deep trouble, with the current run tracking at just 44% of the 10-year average.
Read further news on this year's Snake River sockeye return here:
-- Idaho State Journal: Sockeye salmon return to Redfish Lake, but numbers are still low (Aug. 13)
5. RESTORING A RIVER: SOS' SNAKE RIVER VISION PROJECT - WAWAWAI
Wawawai (Wawawih) was one of several historic Palouse (Palus) tribal villages along the lower Snake River where indigenous people lived for thousands of years. Wawawai sits three miles upstream from current-day Lower Granite dam on the north side of the river near Clarkston (WA) and Lewiston (ID).
Palouse tribal members lived, fished and grazed their famed horse herds in the fertile river bottomlands adjacent to the river. European settlers began arriving in force in the second half of the 19th Century, grabbing land from the original inhabitants to establish orchards, farms and a ferry crossing.
Shallow water steamships stopped in Wawawai (yes, there was commercial boat traffic before the dams!) to pick up apples and the wheat that was harvested on the plateaus above and transported down the steep canyon via large cabled bins resembling today’s ski lifts.
Like so many other lands along the lower Snake River, Wawawai was inundated by the rising water behind Lower Granite Dam in 1975, drowning out the tribal burial grounds and village sites as well as the European farming community that had been established along the banks.
People can visit Wawawai County Park on the edge of the current reservoir, but there's not a lot there today - some picnic tables and lawn. An interpretive trail winds along the bluff nearby with photo displays describing the historic town and original tribal settlement. There is water access, highlighted with a sign: “Warning: Stagnant Water. Swim at your own risk.”
With a restored river, Wawawai could return in a modern form. Birds and wildlife could again flourish in restored habitat. Perhaps the park could be expanded, with additional campsites, boat access, a bike path. It would include a restored river with waters that are not warm, stagnant and algae-infested. Could - and how could - traditional tribal activities and uses be restored?
These are the questions and imaginings that are the focus of SOS' Snake River Vision Project. If you or your family remember Wawawai before the dams, pleae reach out to Sam Mace at firstname.lastname@example.org to share stories and photos.
6. HERE'S SOME GOOD NEWS: RIVER & SALMON SUCCESS STORIES - RESTORING THE NOOKSACK AND PILCHUCK RIVERS!
At Save Our WIld Salmon, we’re inspired by these types of community-led projects restoring healthy, more resilient rivers and recovering endangered native populations and the benefits they bring to local and regional economies, cultures and ecologies - and helping to feed critically endangered Southern Resident orcas that rely upon salmon for their survival.
Follow these links to learn more about these dam removal success stories in the Seattle Times:
-- Another Washington dam removal — and 37 more miles of salmon habitat restored (Aug. 5)
-- Nooksack River dam finally coming down, freeing miles for fish habitat (July 20)