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 we are working to restore health, connectivity and resilience to the rivers and streams they depend upon in the Columbia-Snake River Basin and how you can get involved and help protect and restore healthy, abundant and fishable populations.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. June 'Salmon Webinar Series' - a 'wild' success...And it’s not too late to tune in!
2. Dismal 2020 Snake-Columbia returns imperil salmon and steelhead; harm businesses, communities, and fish and wildlife that rely on them
3. Speak up for Salmon and Solutions: Contact your elected officials today!
4. Spotlight on another important Snake River species at risk: Pacific Lamprey
5. Port Angeles City Council (WA) joins letter calling for solutions and leadership from Congress
6. Restoring a River: Snake River Vision Project - "Remembering Squally John "
7. Pro-Salmon leadership in the business community: Thanks Eco Depot !
1. JUNE ‘SALMON WEBINAR SERIES’ - A 'WILD' SUCCESS...AND IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO TUNE IN!
This month Save Our wild Salmon kicked off it’s first ‘Wild Salmon Webinar Series’ highlighting a few of the many tendrils that connect us to the future of the lower Snake River, its endangered salmon and steelhead and the benefits they bring to the Northwest and nation.
We started the series on June 4th with a discussion focused on the issue of energy replacement with Sean O’Leary of the NW Energy Coalition. Our second presentation last week explored the economic implications - costs, benefits and tradeoffs - of LSR dam removal with Dr. Adam Domanski of ECONorthwest. This Thursday (June 18) we have our third installment of the series focused on this year’s low salmon returns and what it means for sportfishing communities across the Columbia Basin. We recently added a fourth webinar: On June 25th we’ll have a special opportunity to learn more about tribal perspectives on salmon recovery activities in the Snake and Columbia River Basin. Join us!
If you’re interested in (virtually) attending either of these upcoming webinars, send an RSVP here: firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more here about the webinar series and guest speakers.
Video recordings of these webinars will be available online. The first two webinars can be viewed here:
2. DISMAL 2020 SNAKE-COLUMBIA RETURNS IMPERIL SALMON AND STEELHEAD; HARM BUSINESSES AND COMMUNITIES, AND FISH AND WILDLIFE THAT RELY ON THEM
Adult returns of wild salmon and steelhead to the Columbia and Snake rivers and their tributaries continue to bump along the bottom in 2020 – looking to be some of the lowest returns on record. As of June 8, just 55,596 spring chinook had passed Bonneville Dam (the dam closest to the Pacific ocean) near Portland OR. Of those, just 19,187 have passed Lower Granite Dam (the uppermost of the four lower Snake River dams). Most of these fish – roughly 80 percent – originate in hatcheries. Many fish returns this year are so low that fisheries managers are concerned that there will not be sufficient numbers to support hatchery operations this year. As a result, already limited fishing seasons are being further reduced and constrained. Though frustrated and angered by the very limited opportunities this season and the financial loss it brings, many fishermen from both commercial and recreational fishing communities support these closures in order to protect the few returning fish.
“The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t what’s killing our industry,” said Grant Putnam, President of the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association. “A dysfunctional system of dams and reservoirs combined with poor ocean conditions is the real killer of our collective sport and commercial fishing seasons. The outlook isn’t very bright.”
Putnam is referring to another near-record low return of Chinook returning to the Columbia Basin this spring. He also cited indications of the third lowest “jack count” in the last 20 years. “Jacks” are sub-adult Chinook salmon and often provide an early indication of the size of next year’s (in this case 2021) adult salmon return. High jack counts portend high returns; low jack counts predict the opposite.
“Our community is reeling. Right now, fishermen are looking for alternative sources of income to feed their families and pay their rent. More importantly, a future for my son as a fishing guide seems farther and farther away. I had hopes of him becoming a second generation fishing guide, it’s certainly his passion, but as it stands now, the investment needed to get him to where he needs to be is too great if there’s no salmon to support our business and our region’s special way of life.”
Historically, millions of spring chinook returned annually to the Columbia and Snake rivers. Populations today represent just 1-3 percent of this past abundance. Returns in recent years have been steadily falling - and this year are just a fraction of the 10-year average. This graph (source: www.fpc.org) shows the 10-year average (black), 2019 returns (blue) and 2020 returns (red) for Columbia-Snake spring chinook. It shows clearly things are moving in the wrong direction for salmon and steelhead – and for fishing communities, orcas and other wildlife that rely on healthy runs for their survival and well-being.
- Idaho 6 News: Idaho Sockey Begin Perilous Journey (May 27)
3. SPEAK UP FOR SALMON AND SOLUTIONS! CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TODAY!
Earlier this year, Congressman Mike Simpson exclaimed “salmon need one thing; salmon need a river!” He is right of course. Implicit in his statement is the fact that endangered wild salmon and steelhead also need political leadership to deliver the healthy, resilient, and freely flowing lower Snake River they need to survive and thrive.
Here’s how you can help right now: contact elected officials in the Pacific Northwest - Governors, Senators and House members. Yes - salmon need a river - and that will require urgent, constructive leadership by Northwest policymakers. To find resources and ways to contact elected officials in the Pacific Northwest, visit Save Our wild Salmon's Take Action page!
4. SPOTLIGHT ON ANOTHER IMPORTANT SNAKE RIVER SPECIES AT RISK - PACIFIC LAMPREY
While endangered salmon and steelhead have long had the spotlight, imperiled Pacific lamprey (Entosphenus tridentatus) have been getting more attention in recent years. Resembling an eel (but not an eel!) they are anadromous like salmon (spending time in both ocean and freshwater).
Lamprey once returned to the Columbia basin in many hundreds of thousands. Sixty years ago, an estimated 400,000 used to return to the Columbia River Basin. Like salmon, their numbers have declined dramatically to roughly 20,000 annually. Tragically, Snake River populations have numbered in the double digits in recent years!
Estimated to be between 400 and 450 million years old, lamprey are among the most ancient of vertebrates swimming in today’s rivers and oceans. They can be found throughout the Pacific Rim. Perhaps considered homely at first sight—like an eel with a sucker mouth, they are resilient creatures, having survived ice ages, mass extinctions, and all kinds of calamities on Earth. Despite this resilience, the construction of dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers has nearly decimated those struggling today to return to the Snake River.
Lamprey hatch in freshwater rivers and streams and live in the mud and sand where they feed on microorganisms. After 5-7 years they grow into adults and migrate to the ocean, spending 1-3 years there before migrating back to freshwater and spawning there a year or so later. Like salmon, they will travel thousands of miles during their migration. Lamprey are an important predator species and also provide food for many fish, birds and mammals.
Like salmon, Pacific lamprey are sensitive to poor water quality, hot water temperatures and of course dams. Fish ladders at the dams were built for salmon and steelhead, not lamprey, which face enormous challenges navigating the concrete structures and reservoirs behind them.
Historically, lamprey were an important and highly valued food source for Columbia River tribes. Today, Tribes are working hard to restore them to the Columbia and Snake rivers and maintain their role in tribal culture. Nez Perce elder Elmer Crow worked tirelessly for years to educate young Tribal members and the public on the importance of these creatures and to advocate for their restoration. While Crow passed away several years ago, his lamprey legacy lives on.
Columbia Basin Tribes led the effort to develop a Tribal Pacific Lamprey Restoration Plan in conjunction with federal and state agencies to help bring lamprey back to their home waters. Tribal scientists are working to re-establish populations and push for modifications at the dams to make it easier for lamprey to maneuver the fish ladders. But like salmon and steelhead, Pacific Lamprey need the lower Snake River restored in order to return in abundant, harvestable numbers and continue to play their critical role in both Tribal culture and marine and freshwater ecosystems.
To learn more about Lamprey check out the Columbia Inter-Tribal Fish Commission’s excellent resource page. And watch the excellent short documentary Lost Fish.
5. PORT ANGELES CITY COUNCIL TO CONGRESS: WE NEED YOUR LEADERSHIP FOR SALMON, ORCAS AND COMMUNITIES
On June 2 the Port Angeles (WA) City Council voted to add the City of Port Angeles as a signatory on a constituent letter to 6th Congressional District Rep. Derek Kilmer. The letter – originated and circulated by SOS and the Sierra Club -- is a call for leadership by Rep. Kilmer, on behalf of his constituents and the region. The letter affirms the signers’ conviction that restoring the lower Snake River must be a cornerstone of any effective solution to sustain salmon, orca and coastal communities. The letter, however, focuses more on highlighting the 6th Congressional District’s (the Olympic Peninsula in western Washington State) stake in this issue and encourages Rep. Kilmer to work with the region’s other policymakers and its stakeholders and sovereigns to develop a comprehensive solution that brings everyone forward together. The council vote to join the letter was 5-1, with 1 abstention.
Rep. Kilmer responded promptly with a positive and constructive comment. Mr. Kilmer was born and raised in Port Angeles, a fact he emphasized in his response, adding, “I believe we have a moral obligation to effectively recover both salmon and Southern Resident orca populations.”
He also recognized "that the environmental review process [the court-ordered 2020 EIS that the federal agencies are now working to complete] cannot effectively evaluate the socioeconomic and cultural impacts associated with different alternatives.”
The Port Angeles City Council joins 270+ other community leaders and concerned citizens in the 6th Congressional District that have already signed on to the SOS/Sierra Club-sponsored letter. Other high profile signers include all three state legislators from the North Olympic Peninsula’s 24th legislative district, Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval and the majority of the Port Townsend City Council and, in the south end of the district near Tacoma, six of the seven members of the Gig Harbor City Council.
If you live in Washington’s 6th Congressional District, please send a brief “thank you” to Congressman Kilmer for speaking out in favor of regional, science-based solutions for salmon and orca populations, and for healthy communities and regional energy system. He can be emailed here.
6. RESTORING A RIVER: THE ‘SNAKE RIVER VISION PROJECT’ - AN ONGOING SERIES EXPLORING PLACES, HISTORY, AND THE FUTURE OF THE LOWER SNAKE RIVER. By Dean Ferguson
Squally John’s Free-Flowing Snake River
From a distance, my great grandparents could tell that Squally John was approaching because of the white horse he rode. Also, he always showed up right at suppertime. And he was welcome.
Colton, Washington - a farming town started by European settlers - was where Squally John did his trading. What did a man living on the Snake River trade? Salmon, of course. He’d pack salmon up the long, steep canyon to trade for staples.
He visited the Ferguson Farm on his trip back. Few stories live on in my family from those days, which makes a quirky one about Squally John special. As it goes, Squally John was sitting on the porch after dinner and something busted on a clothes-washing tub. Water began to pool at Squally John’s feet. Alarmed, he leapt up, hopping one foot to the other and back, exclaiming in his imperfect English, “All like duck! All like duck!”
It’s a goofy story that gives personality, joy, and life to what would otherwise be little more than a stoic face in a few old photos.
The other story is that we know where his second wife (a Nez Perce woman whose name I don’t know) is buried, a location no longer marked because grave-robbers tried to loot the site in the mid-1990s.
“Of Yesterday and the River” (1964, June Critchfield) reports a couple versions of why the man left his Nisqually tribe on the coast. Each story agrees that he got into a violent confrontation with a tribal healer, under whose care Squally John’s first wife died. In the fight, Squally John lost an eye. When he healed, he headed upriver where the salmon go, arriving around 1848. He lived there before white settlers arrived.
Critchfield notes that Squally John worked as a wagonmaster for the U.S. Army in 1877 and was only paid for 30 days of an 80-day stint. He also fought the railroad, that ended up chewing a 100-foot swath of land out of his 75 acres. He left in 1914, to be treated for an illness. He was about 100 years old when he died.
Today, this man who was cheated by the government, whose land and fruit trees were run over by the railroad, is remembered by a US Army Corps of Engineers’ day-use camping and boat launch site called ‘Nisqually John Landing’ on the banks of the lower Snake River.
Just 12 miles downriver from Clarkston, Washington, everyone interested in the Snake River should visit this site. Sit on the boat dock. Gaze over soundless flat water where a powerful current once thrummed. Watch low-flying pelicans that started showing up on this 125-mile stretch of slackwater in the past decade. Or the cormorants that showed up a few years earlier. In his time, as a coastal native, Squally John is one of the few folks who would have recognized these birds.
Take a moment to imagine the free-flowing Snake that was here for so long. Think of our imperiled salmon and steelhead runs. Imagine the drowned rocks nearby where Squally John once hefted great salmon from the river to feed himself and the farmers on the Palouse. Imagine sandy beaches. Rapids. Imagine a vibrant riparian area, now covered in railroad riprap. Imagine life.
Take a moment to imagine what Squally John might think of this spot that is named after him.
7. PRO-SALMON LEADERSHIP IN THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY: THANKS ECO DEPOT!
This month we highlight business supporter Eco Depot, Spokane’s first residential and commercial solar company. Eco Depot has been solarizing eastern WA since 1999. Eco Depot owner Bruce Gage and his team have installed more than 1 megawatt of solar on people’s roof tops, farms and commercial buildings in eastern Washington. Bruce and Eco Depot are one of the many businesses building a future for the Inland Northwest that can support healthy salmon, a free-flowing Snake River, and modern and affordable energy and transportation alternatives. Looking for solar? Check out www.ecodepotinc.com