IN THIS ISSUE:
1. ‘New’ Federal Plan due for Columbia-Snake salmon and dams – spill levels are a key issue
2. Rollback, Columbia, Rollback? 21 groups and business associations tell BPA: No going backward on spill!
3. FIVE MYTHS about freight transportation on the lower Snake River
4. Getting In Hot Water on the Columbia and Snake Rivers
5. Back by popular demand! (hint: it’s wearable art)
6. Salmon Mean Business: Please support these salmon-friendly businesses
1. 'NEW' FEDERAL PLAN DUE FOR COLUMBIA-SNAKE SALMON AND DAMS - SPILL LEVELS WILL BE KEY ISSUE
With three failures under their belts since 2000, federal agencies are again at work on a big plan to protect and restore endangered Columbia-Snake River salmon and steelhead. The government’s draft plan is expected next month, with the final plan due by year’s end.
Spilling water over dams to boost salmon survival is emerging as a key legal, scientific and political issue for this new plan. Here’s some context to help you understand the importance of pending decisions by the federal agencies:
The Law. The amount and timing of “spill” – water released over dam spillways so the maximum number of ocean-bound young salmon drop over with it – included in the plan will go a long way toward determining whether it lands on the right – or wrong - side of the law; boosts salmon jobs; and provides near-term certainty for salmon, and energy and water users on the Columbia-Snake Rivers. In 2006, the Court began to require a basic level of spring and summer spill at eight federal dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers. This court-ordered spill is now the norm, though it is still opposed by Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) – the agency that markets the energy produced by the dams. To what extent the government decides to include spill in its upcoming plan will fundamentally affect the plan’s chances to be legal and valid.
The Science. The Comparative Survival Study’s April 2013 report focuses on spill. Previous CSS reports have found spill the most promising tool available - as long as dams remain - for achieving the full lifecycle survival rates Columbia Basin salmon need to avoid extinction and recover. With eight consecutive years of data, the CSS report confirms that current-court ordered spill is boosting returns for endangered salmon and steelhead, and concludes more spill would be even better, potentially bringing some populations to recovery levels.
Politics and Collaboration. The State of Oregon, Nez Perce Tribe and 12 fishing and conservation groups have successfully challenged the last three federal salmon plans. They also won the spill injunctions starting in 2006. We believe that a durable agreement on Columbia-Snake salmon, energy and transportation can be best achieved through regional collaboration - one that includes the plaintiffs above. A legal plan in the near-term can keep parties out of the courtroom and help lay the foundation for a collaboration to craft the salmon-energy-transportation strategy we need in the Columbia Basin for the long-term.
However, despite wild salmon populations continuing to struggle, scientific backing for more spill, and growing support for a regional collaboration, BPA is planning to reduce spill in the future. BPA wants to go backward to go forward – risking both salmon and the chances of a regional collaboration. (see the next article for more details on this)
The Administration’s Opportunity. The Obama Administration and BPA can help break the long deadlock on the Columbia-Snake by following the science on spill levels in its new salmon plan this year. Doing so would aid salmon, strengthen the plan’s scientific foundation, and make it much more likely to be deemed lawful.
By extending this hand of partnership to the winning plaintiffs, the administration will also build political momentum for multi-party collaboration. Last December, the administration began an assessment, to be released this fall, of a long-term collaborative process for Columbia Basin salmon recovery. Information is being collected from regional stakeholders on perspectives and possible design of a collaboration. For this collaboration to succeed, however, the next federal plan must provide greater protections for salmon and create some common ground for the administration, the states and the other parties. Spill is shaping up to be a key to this common ground.
Stay tuned – as this story is still developing!
2. ROLLBACK, COLUMBIA, ROLLBACK? 21 GROUPS AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS TELL BPA: NO GOING BACKWARD ON SPILL!
As described above, a key legal and scientific issue in the upcoming federal salmon plan concerns the level of spill provided for migrating juvenile salmon.
THERE'S GOOD NEWS... We were heartened last April by findings presented in the CSS Report (see previous story). These new scientific findings confirm the benefits of spill and give the Obama Administration a great opportunity to finally achieve a lawful salmon plan and create salmon-based jobs throughout the region at the same time – by including an expanded spill program in its new plan later this year.
...BUT THERE IS BAD NEWS TOO: Unfortunately, fishing and conservation groups also recently learned that BPA, in several of its planning processes, is assuming not expanded spill nor even the current court-ordered spill that’s been in place for the past eight years, but less spill for the Northwest's endangered salmon and steelhead. On July 16, twenty-one regional and national fishing, conservation, and business groups sent a letter asking BPA to reverse its decision to move backwards on spill, and to instead use existing spill as a minimum baseline for future plans. The science is clear – salmon need more spill, not less.
By ignoring the regional science consensus and instead working to roll back spill levels, BPA is undermining the regional dialogue about spill. BPA is also missing a vital opportunity to work with others in the region to rebuild salmon and steelhead populations, invest in our fishing economy, provide greater certainty for utilities and ratepayers, and encourage the wider collaborations our region needs to finally resolve the intertwined challenges of energy and salmon.
See the July 16 Letter to BPA.
3. FIVE MYTHS ABOUT FREIGHT TRANSPORTATION ON THE LOWER SNAKE RIVER - CITIZEN ACTIVIST CHALLENGES THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS ON THEIR BARGING AND DREDGING ANALYSES
This week, North Idaho resident Linwood Laughy has released a report, The Five Most Blatant Myths about Freight Transportation on the Lower Snake River, showing how the Army Corps of Engineers and the Port of Lewiston are trying to justify continued “taxpayer investment” in the lower Snake River barge-transport waterway with figures that are grossly inaccurate and out-of-date.
Despite misleading claims that barging on the lower Snake River is efficient, environmentally benign, cost-effective and vital to the region’s economy, the reality is that the Snake corridor is an aging and increasingly obsolete mode of transportation that drains scarce taxpayer dollars from other pressing infrastructure needs. Barging on the lower Snake contributes just 5 percent of the total goods shipped on the larger Columbia River waterway.
Here’s a link to the Five Myths Report, and excerpts below from SOS’s press release:
- Barging on the Snake River is not the most fuel-efficient method of transportation nor does it keep trucks off the highways. In fact, with farmers investing in new infrastructure such as the McCoy unit train loader near Oakesdale, WA, using truck-rail to move grain has become competitive with shipping by truck-barge.
- The Corps and taxpayers face expensive measures to address the growing flood risk to Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA caused by millions of cubic yards of sediment piling up in the reservoir behind Lower Granite dam. Under the Corps' current plans, tens of millions of dollars will be needed for ongoing dredging and long-term raising of levees.
- “My analysis is based on publicly available data and basic arithmetic,” said Clearwater Valley resident Laughy. “The Port of Lewiston is shipping a fraction of what it once did while the costs of maintaining the waterway are skyrocketing. Costs that will be shouldered by taxpayers, not waterway users,” the former educator and outfitter continued.
- “This discussion is long overdue. We need a transparent assessment of what these four aging dams will cost both taxpayers and salmon, and how our infrastructure can better serve both fishermen and farmers,” said SOS Inland NW Director Sam Mace. “When bridges are deteriorating and the high-value dams on the Columbia are in need of repairs, are the four lower Snake dams worth their rising costs?”
- “The path toward restored salmon runs and an efficient modern transportation system for farmers and shippers may be dam removal. That option is on the table for salmon. Mr. Laughy’s report proves it should also be on the table for taxpayers,” said IRU Conservation Director Kevin Lewis.
4. GETTING IN HOT WATER ON THE COLUMBIA AND SNAKE RIVERS
Last week, 180 wild chinook salmon in the Middle Fork of the John Day River, an important tributary to the Columbia, died due to high temperatures (mid-70s) and low flows. Last week, temperatures in the main-stem Columbia and Snake also exceeded 70 degrees for the first time this summer. And unfortunately not the last time.
SOS is sending Northwest reporters and writers weekly updates on this hot water. It’s a big problem - and getting bigger - for endangered salmon and for people. We hope our updates lead to stories on rising river temperatures, its effects on people and salmon, and what we can do.
The draft of the next federal plan for Columbia-Snake salmon is due out next month. Will the new plan, unlike its illegal predecessors, tackle the harms of rising river temperatures to salmon and steelhead by moving beyond today’s inadequate status quo measures?
Our first update to reporters and writers is below:
July 23, 2013 Memo to Northwest writers, reporters, editorialists and columnists
Hot Water Alert # 1: Columbia/Snake river temperatures reach 70 degrees - menacing endangered salmon and the economy
Last Thursday, July 18, water temperature in the forebay of the Ice Harbor Dam reservoir on the lower Snake River hit 70.4 degrees F - the first time this year that water temperatures at Columbia and Snake river federal dams passable to salmon reached 70 degrees.
The optimal temperature range for salmon is 55-64 degrees F. Yet, yesterday, the coolest river temperature at any of these eight federal dams exceeded 65 degrees.
Since 1950, maximum August water temperatures in the Columbia River are up about 2.7 degrees F. This signals big trouble for us, our rivers and our cities, with worse to come. Hot water is a clear and present danger to Northwest salmon, people, and the economy. Hot rivers are sick rivers, which will harm people as well as salmon.
Scientists have already identified warming of river temperatures as a key factor in the decline of salmon in the Columbia and Snake River Basin. That’s why Save Our wild Salmon will issue regular alerts through this summer as river temperatures exceed 70 degrees at one or more of the federal dams on the Columbia or Snake that endangered salmon must traverse. Each will provide further background on what hot water means to salmon, rivers, and people.
For Northwest people, businesses and governments to respond and adapt to the worsening health of the Columbia and Snake rivers, they first must be informed about its warming waters. Please consider writing or reporting on rising Columbia and Snake river temperatures, what they mean for salmon and people, and what can be done about them.
Daily river temperature readings at Columbia and Snake dams can be found here at the Fish Passage Center website. Each dam must be queried individually. Thank you.
5. BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND!
Eileen Klatt’s gorgeous salmon artwork can again swim across your torso. With a $60 donation we’ll send you your own wild salmon and steelhead t-shirt. It’s a win-win. You become the proud owner of clothing that doubles as art, and SOS receives your 100% tax-deductible donation that allows us to continue swimming upstream on behalf of wild salmon and steelhead, and healthy rivers and communities. We have Large, Medium, and Small sizes. Visit our DONATE page here to place an order. Thank you!
6. SALMON MEAN BUSINESS!
This is a new section of our newsletter where we highlight salmon-friendly businesses – and thank them for their support of our work here at Save Our wild Salmon. And urge you, our supporters, to in turn support them with your business.
Salmon represent many things to many people. Some of our business champions benefit directly from healthier, more robust salmon and steelhead populations. Other businesses simply recognize the benefits that salmon bring to the human and natural communities they inhabit, and that healthy salmon populations mean clean water, wild rivers, good food, and good jobs. And that's good for everybody.
Here are just three of our business champs. Go ahead - give 'em the business!
Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. –Patagonia's Mission Statement
Western Prince Whale-watching and Wildlife Tours: Western Prince was the first company from the San Juan Islands to share the wonder of Orca whales with the public in 1986 and has continued to maintain the highest quality viewing experience with over 2500 tours to date. We have dedicated years to observing and understanding marine wildlife here in the San Juan Islands and our entire crew enjoys sharing their knowledge and insight with you.
Juniper Ridge: The only company in the world extracting and formulating 100% real, plant-based fragrances. 100 years ago any of the big perfume houses in Paris could have made that claim. They used to work with real plants, but they gave it up. We’re doing it the old-fashioned way from start to finish in our Oakland, California workshop.