2018 has started fast and furious - and it shows no signs of slowing down! SOS staff and allies have been burning the candle at both ends to take advantage of key opportunities we’ve created – and to defend our hard-fought gains. A lot has happened – both good and bad – affecting Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead and their rivers and streams since our last newsletter in March/April. We appreciate your active support for our work. Read this longer-than-usual issue of Wild Salmon & Steelhead to get up to speed and learn how you can help! Thank you.
IN THIS ISSUE:
I. HR 3144 – the Salmon Extinction Act – passes the House: what it means and what’s next
II. Bad news - wild salmon and steelhead returns 2018: Recent returns and 2018 pre-season estimates
III. Good news - 2018 Lower Snake River Dams Energy Replacement Study finds replacing the lower Snake dams’ energy services feasible and affordable
IV. From the Inland Northwest: Landscape design students imagine a free-flowing Lewiston (ID) waterfront
V. Governor Inslee (WA) creates Emergency Orca Task Force – increasing prey (chinook salmon) numbers must be the top priority.
VI. Event Report: Phase II of “A Tale of Two Rivers” and the Patagonia film premiere: “Blue Heart”
VII. Save these dates!
-- 6/8/2018 in Portland OR: Celebrate 50 years of the Wild & Scenic Rivers with Sawyer Paddles & Oars and SOS
-- 9/7-9/8/2018 on the Lower Snake River: ‘Free the Snake’ Flotilla and Rally on the River with Winona LaDuke
I. HR 3144 – the Salmon Extinction Act – passes the House of Representatives: what it means and what’s next
On April 25, HR 3144 – a bill that we’ve dubbed the Salmon Extinction Act – passed the House of Representatives roughly along party lines – with eight Democrats voting for and eight Republicans voting against. Introduced by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, 3144 as law would wreak havoc on all sorts of things we care about: salmon and orca, fishing communities, the courts, federal laws including the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. It would overturn the historic court decision salmon advocates won in 2016, rollback hard-fought protections (increased spill) for at-risk salmon and derail the court-ordered environmental review, including an analysis of lower Snake River dam removal.
Despite this loss in the House – an outcome we anticipated before the vote - with your help, salmon advocates and Northwest policymakers put up a strong fight. Allies in D.C. tell us we did very well, given the makeup of Congress today. Leading up to the vote, we secured the public opposition of Govs. Jay Inslee (WA) and Kate Brown (OR), Sen. Murray and Reps. Adam Smith (WA), Pramila Jayapal (WA) and Earl Blumenauer (OR). We organized hundreds of thousands grassroots contacts to Congressional members from across the country.
Working with allies, we organized a sign-on letter opposing 3144 from business associations and businesses across the West Coast; more than 25 regional and national conservation and fishing organizations sent letters to Congress urging its opposition to the ‘Salmon Extinction Act’.
So what’s next? We can still stop this harmful, backwards bill from going to the White House for Pres. Trump’s signature. As we have done before, we’ll need to work together to block further activity in the House and stop this bill in the Senate.
First the Senate: a version of this bill has been referred to the Environment and Public Works Committee, but it has not been formally introduced (yet!). We know that there is opposition to this bill in the Senate – led by Senator Murray (WA) and – at this time - we are not aware of any champions for this bill. That could change at any time, so we’re staying on-alert and will ask you for your help if this changes. And please let us know if you hear anything!
ACT NOW: Contact your Senators! - Ask them to oppose the "Salmon Extinction Act" and ensure it does not become law.
Second, back in the House, Rep. McMorris Rodgers is also pushing a ‘rider’ on an upcoming appropriations bill. The rider includes just one provision of 3144 – if this rider passes, it will roll back the increased spill to help endangered salmon that the court recently ordered and that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld when the dam agencies challenged it. The spending bill is scheduled for a vote in the Appropriations Committee this week and we're pushing allied Representatives to do all they can to remove this rider before this vote. Here again, successfully striking this bill will be hard given the composition of the House today. But we'll try!
In sum, the battle continues. The Salmon Extinction Act and/or rider would deliver a devastating blow if it becomes law, and we are doing all we can to defend the gains we've made for Columbia/Snake salmon and their rivers. Thank you very much for your attention and your help – Stay tuned!
II. Bad news: wild salmon and steelhead returns 2018: Recent returns and 2018 pre-season estimates
Tom Stuart, SOS Board Chair based in Boise, Idaho, has compiled the most recent adult returns for wild salmon and steelhead returning to the Snake River and its tributaries. In short, it’s bad and getting worse, especially for B-run steelhead. These fish desperately need additional help in the near-term. And given the tightening grip of climate change in combination with the immense harms caused by the federal system of dams and reservoirs, it is impossible to imagine a strategy that protects these irreplaceable wild fish as long as the four lower Snake River dams remain in place. Source: Idaho Fish and Game.
And here's a powerful new essay about the magic of - and great peril faced by - B-Run Steelhead - Extinction in the Heart of Idaho - by Pat Ford, former SOS executive director and one of our most dedicated, knowledgeable and articulate advocates for wild salmon and steelhead and their ecosystems.
More troubling evidence re: 2018 returns: the fisheries managers’ Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is forecasting a 2018 fall chinook run in the Columbia River that is 23 percent less than the actual number of fish that returned last year and about one-half of the (already very low) 10-year average.
The TAC is forecasting a fall chinook run in 2018 of 365,600 fish. That’s down from 2017’s actual run of 475,900 fish and far lower than 2017’s forecast of 582,600 fish.
The bottom line: the wild salmon and steelhead of the Columbia and Snake Rivers are in the midst of a new steep decline bringing them perilously close to extinction. By any metric, these irreplaceable fish are in deep trouble – as are the benefits they have delivered each and every year to the people, fish and wildlife, and ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. These fish need more help today, not less. HR 3144 is rightly named the Salmon (and Steelhead) Extinction Act. There is great urgency to act now - to protect and begin to rebuild these imperiled populations and their benefits - by protecting and restoring and reconnecting their river ecosystems.
Links to further resources:
Columbia Basin Bulletin: Harvest Managers Predict 23 Percent Decline In 2018 Fall Chinook Run, One-Half Of 10-Year AverageColumbia Basin Bulletin: Harvest Managers Predict 23 Percent Decline In 2018 Fall Chinook Run, One-Half Of 10-Year Average (March 2018)
III. Good news - 2018 Lower Snake River Dams Energy Replacement Study finds replacing the lower Snake dams’ energy services is feasible and affordable
In early April, SOS member organization NW Energy Coalition released its long-awaited analysis examining how we can replace the energy services provided by the lower Snake River dams. This groundbreaking study was conducted by Energy Strategies, a highly-respected energy consulting firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The study finds that we can replace the meager energy services provided by the lower Snake River dams feasibly, affordably, and with little to no additional carbon emissions. In fact, by removing these four costly dams and replacing them with clean renewables like solar and wind, the Northwest region can actually have a more reliable energy system than today. Further, the cost to replace the dams' energy with clean, renewable, salmon-friendly energy (thanks to plummeting prices of wind and solar resources) will amount to little more than one dollar per month per household for an average Northwest energy consumer.
Related, SOS and its member groups recently released the results of a poll of Washington State voters revealing their favorably changing views about wild salmon, orca, clean energy, and lower Snake River dam removal. The poll was very encouraging. A majority of voters support removing the lower Snake River dams to protect salmon from extinction – especially when it is coupled as part of a larger plan to replace the dams’ services (hydro-energy and barge transportation) with alternatives such as wind and solar, and upgraded railways. And the poll also found a majority of Washingtonians surveyed willing to pay as much as $7/month more on their electric bill to protect salmon from extinction.
This study blows up the mythology perpetuated by protectors of a failed status quo - that we must choose between clean, affordable energy and wild salmon and steelhead. This study also comes at a critical time – as the federal agencies are examining salmon recovery options – including dam removal - in the Columbia/Snake Basin's court ordered environmental review.
Here are some links to further information about the study and the poll:
2018 Lower Snake River Dam Power Replacement Study (April 2018)
Power Replacement Study - 1-page factsheet (April 2018)
Power Replacement Study - 4-page factsheet (April 2018)
2018 Poll of Washington State Voters re: Salmon and Dams – 4-page memo (March 2018)
IV. From the Inland Northwest: Landscape Design Students Imagine a Freeflowing Lewiston Waterfront
Landscape Architecture students with Washington State University (WSU) spent the semester studying the lower Snake River and its dams as part of a project to re-design the waterfront for the city of Lewiston, Idaho if/when the dams are removed. They toured the river, met with stakeholders and researched the impacts to Lewiston, ID if the dams remain or are removed.
Students’ designs were unveiled at a recent reception at the Lewiston City library, where the public was invited to take a look and listen to students discuss their design choices. All the students chose designs that re-imagined a free-flowing a river with the lower Snake River dams removed and focused on re-connecting the City of Lewiston to its river confluence where the Snake joins the Clearwater, currently cut off from the downtown by levees.
Designs ranged from a focus on urban development with shops, public walkways, to enhanced recreation access for boating, swimming and walking, to ecological restoration of the riparian area. All emphasized re-connecting people and the downtown core to the river.
Among the 40 people who came to view the designs and meet the students were many long-time residents of the Lewiston who shared fond memories of when the river was natural and free-flowing, before water was impounded behind dams and the Snake became more lake than river. They told stories of swimming at the beautiful beaches along the river and waterskiing during the lunch hour. They lamented that people who moved here after 1976 did not have firsthand knowledge of what has been lost.
The designs offer a starting point for a new conversation in Lewiston on what the waterfront can offer to the local economy and quality of life. Some residents in Lewiston want the dams to stay, but many people feel it is past time for a community conversation about dams going vs. staying, and the costs and benefits at stake. The designs make a strong argument for choosing a river over a reservoir. The exhibit is open to the public through the end of June at the downtown library. Stop in and take a look.
Read the Lewiston Morning Tribune story by Eric Barker.
V. Governor Inslee (WA) creates Emergency Orca Task Force – increasing prey (chinook salmon) supply must be top priority
In mid-March, Joseph Bogaard (SOS) and other members of the Orca Salmon Alliance joined Governor Inslee and many others as he formally announced the creation of an Emergency Orca Task Force to address the urgent plight of critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales – or orcas. The Southern Residents were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2006.
Despite this “protection” the population has continued to decline. Today it is at a 30-year low – just 76 members of this unique community remain. Toxins and vessel noise are contributing problems, but the most urgent cause of decline is lack of food – namely chinook salmon which make up at least 80% of their diet. Protecting orca from extinction must focus effective near-term actions that will protect and restore salmon and their ecosystems, including in the Columbia-Snake Basin where the large, once highly salmon-productive basin still has tremendous chinook restoration potential – if we protect, restore and reconnect the rivers and streams they need. Increased spill is our most effective near-term action to increase salmon populations; dam removal will be far more beneficial of course, but require several years to plan and execute.
The Task Force is the first of its kind to address declining orca numbers. It represents a tremendous opportunity to tackle big problems that we have long known existed, but it is important to remember that the Task Force will only succeed with relentless public attention and pressure demanding science-based action and bold political leadership. There is little mystery about what needs to be done to meet the needs of orca; it is truly a question of whether we have the political will to act. The Task Force and the Governor must both move forward with great urgency and with a commitment to actions and measures that protect and restore resilient habitats, ecosystem function and connectivity. Especially in the face of a changing climate, we must increase our faith in nature and rely less on the types of technology-centered strategies that have put us, salmon and orca in the fix we’re in.
The Task Force first met on May 1. There are three working groups for prey, toxins and vessel interference. The Task Force is charged with delivering action recommendations to the Governor by October 2018. Fortunately, a good number of SOS leaders and allies have been invited to join the Task Force and its working groups. We have a lot of work ahead.
Here are several links to media coverage and the Governor’s Task Force webpage with further information, including the Task Force Executive Order and members, and a recent letter from the Orca Salmon Alliance that SOS contributed to.
VI. Event Report: Phase II of “A Tale of Two Rivers” and a Patagonia premiere of “Blue Heart”
In late April, SOS had the honor of partnering a second time with Lynda Mapes (Seattle Times), Rocky Barker (Idaho Statesman) and Jeff Renner (retired, KING5) for a second set of ‘A Tale of Two Rivers’ presentations – this time in Olympia (WA) and Portland (OR). Once again, the conversation focused on the amazing Elwha River/ecosystem restoration success story. The world’s largest dam removal (to date) was completed five years ago and this ecosystem, its fish and wildlife and nearby human communities have been in restoration mode ever since. This speaker series also focused in on the fast changing dynamics on the lower Snake River and escalating pressure to restore this river and its wild salmon and steelhead by removing its four deadbeat dams.
Later this spring we’ll release an hour-long video file of our inaugural discussion in Seattle back in January, in case you’d like to see the discussion. Stay tuned.
SOS was also honored to join Patagonia staff in Seattle on May 10 for the premiere of Blue Heart – a powerful, troubling and inspiring new film produced by Patagonia spotlighting the people’s campaigns in the Balkan region of southeast Europe to resist an onslaught of dam-building projects. Nearly 3000 projects are being planned and/or underway thanks to an unholy alliance of banks, dam builders and pliable politicians.
Learn more about saving the Blue Heart of Europe – including a 2-minute trailer and screening schedule.
A huge shout-out to Yvon Chouinard and the amazing people at Patagonia for their tremendous leadership to spotlight and support critical environmental battles and priorities in the United States and around the world.
VII. Save these dates! Mark your calendars!
6/8/2018: Celebrate ‘50 years of the 'Wild & Scenic Rivers Act’ with ‘Sawyer Paddles and Oars’ – in a benefit for SOS!
Sawyer Paddles and Oars has teamed up with SOS in 2018 to promote healthy, resilient native fish and rivers in the Northwest. Sawyer is featuring limited edition oars with beautiful artwork from Link Jackson, Ty Hallock and other artists. Every sale benefits SOS.
We’re also co-hosting a celebration of 50 years of Wild & Scenic Rivers in America – with a fun, public event in Portland (OR) on the evening of June 8 – featuring Hank Patterson as the evening’s emcee, films from Shane Anderson, food and refreshments, and an auction with art, trips, gear, and more!
For further information:
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Hundreds of salmon, steelhead, orca, river and treaty rights advocates will gather on the river for our 4th Annual Rally to 'Free the Snake!' on September 7 and 8 this year. Thanks to Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, this year we'll have a very special guest: Winona LaDuke.
The founder of Honor the Earth, Winona LaDuke is a leading indigenous rights activist from the Ojibwa Nation in Minnesota. She has spent her life rebuilding indigenous communities and fighting against pipelines and other dirty energy projects for more than 30 years.
Join us for our 4th Annual Rally on the River – for food, camping, speakers, live music - and to join forces with others in support of restoring the lower Snake River and its endangered wild salmon and steelhead.