Wild Salmon & Steelhead News is published monthly 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 people and ecosystems, and the extinction crisis they face today. Find out how SOS is helping lead efforts to restore health, connectivity, and resilience to the rivers and streams salmon depend upon in the Columbia-Snake Basin and how you can get involved to help restore healthy, abundant, and fishable populations and sustain more just and prosperous communities. To learn more and/or get involved, contact Tanya Riordan.
1. The Way Forward for the Snake River and PNW salmon recovery
2. First International Indigenous 'Salmon Seas Symposium’ gathers in Seattle
3. Another lower Snake River dam oil spill
4. Celebrate Native American Heritage Month!
5. 'Northwest Artists Against Extinction' storefront is now open!
7. Recent Snake River/Salmon media roundup
With the tremendous leadership by Tribes and solutions-oriented advocacy from you and so many others, this growing engagement by powerful decision-makers has been transformative – opening up a long-sought window of opportunity that can deliver big benefits to the lands and waters, fish and wildlife, and peoples and communities across the Northwest. Needless to say, salmon, orca and river advocates will continue to have a critical role to play to leverage this momentum and leadership – and to help urgently develop and deliver a comprehensive regional solution that includes lower Snake River dam removal, on an urgent timeframe salmon need.
Our collective work to recover salmon by protecting, restoring, and reconnecting their rivers and streams has never been a partisan issue. The just-completed Fall 2022 elections underscore this fact and further reinforce these favorable circumstances and movement for salmon recovery. Notably, two leading Northwest salmon/river restoration champions in Congress – Sen. Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) were easily re-elected this month and are likely to wield significant influence in the upcoming Congressional session. Gov. Brown (D-OR) - another important champion for salmon will leave office at the end of this year due to term limits in Oregon, but the newly-elected incoming governor - Tina Kotek – should be a strong ally and maintain Oregon’s role as a leader for salmon recovery and dam removal. Additionally, Washington State Governor Inslee and state legislative champions will (must!) continue their work to lead efforts that invest in salmon recovery priorities, including for Snake River fish as we head into the upcoming legislative session in Washington State.
To seize this unprecedented opportunity that you/we’ve helped create, SOS will continue our work to educate and engage people and policymakers, expand issue visibility, and build relationships with key constituencies and stakeholders. Working together, SOS and our partners – NGOs, businesses, community, and elected leaders and citizens – will support Tribes and work to build strong public support for salmon recovery and leadership by our elected leaders and decision-makers.
We must support – and hold accountable - State and Federal public officials to ensure they move forward on their commitments to protect Snake River salmon from extinction – by immediately developing, funding, and beginning to implement a comprehensive plan for dam removal in a manner that invests in communities and brings everyone forward together.
Salmon recovery in the Snake and Columbia rivers requires urgent action – and a whole-of-government approach – including the Bonneville Power Administration! We need solutions that protect salmon and orcas from extinction, and also meet the needs of Tribes, the energy sector, farmers, and anglers. Please ask U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to ensure BPA aligns with the region's vision for abundant salmon & clean energy.
Dozens of Indigenous knowledge keepers, leaders, and salmon fishers from around the north Pacific - the Salish Sea, Southeast Alaska, and Sea of Okhotsk (immediately north of Japan) - gathered for the first time at the zoo over four days.
They shared ancestral knowledge, ceremony, and strategies to protect salmon, the lands and waters they depend upon, and the people who have cared for them since time immemorial.
A goal of the Symposium was to reinvoke Indigenous knowledge in conversations about salmon recovery, Se’Si’Le co-executive director Kurt Russo said.
“We need to take a step back and decide: Are we willing to denature nature for our toys and our various games we play with her?” Russo said. “Or, are we going to stand with her and give her future generations a world in which she can live?”
In a proclamation signed by some attendees, they pledged to honor the rights of the Salmon People, support each others’ efforts to restore and protect salmon populations and call for respect and reciprocity across cultures in the effort.
Se’Si’Le is a non-profit organization that works to restore Indigenous knowledge in environmental restoration efforts. Se’Si’Le means “grandmother.” The organization was born during the fight to bring home the orca Tokitae, also known as Lolita, who had been held in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium for five decades.
Several hundred people gathered on the evening of Oct. 30 to witness a ceremony and honoring of salmon and the peoples and communities that have enjoyed a profound and reciprocal relationship with salmon since time immemorial. A news conference the following day marked the culmination of the first International Indigenous Salmon Seas Symposium.
Follow the links below to learn more about the Symposium - and hear from and about other Indigenous leaders based in the Salish Sea Basin who are leading the way - speaking up on behalf of salmon and advocating for their communities.
- Seattle Times: Indigenous people of the ‘Salmon Seas’ sign proclamation at Woodland Park Zoo
- Seattle Times Guest Opinion: Lisa Wilson: Make tribes equal funding partners with WA in salmon recovery efforts
- Seattle Times: Puget Sound salmon habitat restored with tribes leading the way
3. Another lower Snake River dam oil spill
Did you know the lower Snake River dams have a history of spilling oil and lubricants into the river?
Last month, a turbine system at the Little Goose Dam spilled hundreds of gallons of oil into the Snake River for over 90 days, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Despite the Corps’ oil monitoring systems and oil prevention protocols, another spill has polluted the lower Snake River.
In a recent OPB article, Lauren Goldberg, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper, stated, “For decades, the hydroelectric dams on both the Columbia and the Snake rivers have repeatedly released oil into the river systems without any consequences and without a concrete plan and actions to catch the oil releases much earlier than what’s playing out right now on the Snake,”
A few of the oil spills in the lower Snake River include: In 2017, the Lower Monumental dam spilled over 1,600 gallons of oil into the Snake River. In 2012, the Army Corps reported discharging over 1,500 gallons of PCB-laden transformer oil - an oil that causes cancer and has adverse health effects on the human body - at the Ice Harbor Dam - violating numerous state and federal water quality standards.
SOS member group Columbia Riverkeeper settled a lawsuit in 2014 against the Army Corps to stop oil pollution from the eight federal dams on the lower Columbia and lower Snake Rivers. “The settlement required the Army Corps to apply for water pollution permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The permits would require the Corps to monitor and reduce oil and other water pollution from the dams.” Currently, EPA has issued these permits for the four lower Snake River dams, but has yet to issue the permits to the four lower Columbia River dams, Chief Joseph dam, or Grand Coulee dam.
For the recent oil spill in Oct., the EPA will continue to gather information “before determining if the spill violates the terms of the new Clean Water Act permit for the dam facility. EPA will conduct follow up inspections at the dam in the near future,” stated Bill Dunbar, a spokesperson with the EPA.
Dylan Peters, a spokesperson with the Walla Walla district of the Army Corps, stated, “We do everything possible to mitigate risks and prevent such leaks. But, even under the best circumstances, oil is difficult to contain and costly to clean up once it does start leaking and entering waterways.”
We have spent billions of dollars on updating the lower Snake River dams that continue to drive salmon towards extinction and release dangerous levels of oil into the river, which harm salmon as well as the communities that rely upon them. It is with great urgency that our elected officials must invest and implement new clean energy infrastructure to replace the lower Snake River dams that also restores the health of salmon, steelhead, and the river.
Read more here:
•OPB: Hundreds of gallons of oil leak into Snake River from Little Goose Dam
•Tri-City Herald: Dam turbine leaks hundreds of gallons of oil into Snake River in Eastern WA
4. Celebrate Native American Heritage Month!
November is Native American Heritage Month! We invite you to celebrate, honor, and learn about the invaluable contributions of Indigenous people.
To learn more about Native culture and heritage, check out our blog post offering books, poems, videos, articles, podcasts, and more from Indigenous voices across the region.
5. 'Northwest Artists Against Extinction' storefront is now open!
Earlier this month, 'Northwest Artists Against Extinction', a project of SOS, launched an online store! We’re excited to announce we have NEW apparel, waterbottles, coffee mugs, and notebooks with incredible artwork from Sue Coccia, Britt Freda, Claire Waichler, Eileen Klatt, Erik Sandgren, and Jen McLuen. These incredible artists located across the Pacific Northwest have generously donated their artwork to support NWAAE and our collective efforts to restore and repair our region's native fish and their rivers.
So, as you gear up for winter, stay warm with your very own sweater and beanie with Claire Waichler’s "Free The Snake" artwork. Or beat the winter chill with your favorite warm beverage in a 15 oz. ceramic coffee mug with Jen McLuen’s "Salmon and Orca" artwork! Write down your river-inspired poems and reflections on a year full of wins for salmon and orca in a notebook featuring Erik Sandgren’s "Dip Netter" artwork. Peruse the storefront for everything you’ll need before you enter winter’s hibernation!
Shop the storefront here! This online store will continue to grow with additional pieces from NWAAE - stay tuned!
On the store website you’ll notice NWAAE has a new logo! Follow the NWAAE Instagram to learn more about the design process behind the logo!
We would love to see photos of you sporting your new NWAAE merchandise! Tag us on Instagram: @nwartistsagainstextinction, or email Abby Dalke at email@example.com with your photos for a chance to be featured on our social media and newsletter!
6. Crying wolf: Lessons learned from recent coal plant transitions
There is a lot of hyperbole that continues to come from some segments of the public power sector in the Northwest about 'lights going out' and 'rates going up' if the four lower Snake River dams (LSRD) are decommissioned to protect salmon from extinction. This rhetoric is the just latest in a long-running narrative crying doom-and-gloom about our coal plant retirements and other necessary transitions to ensure our energy system is affordable, reliable and increasingly scrubbed of carbon emissions. In contrast to these misleading claims, our experience in recent decades amply demonstrate that we can, in fact, make big changes to modernize our energy system AND keep the lights on with rate impacts to households and businesses to a minimum.
Thirteen years ago, for example, concerted efforts regionally began to close the Boardman coal plant in Oregon. Boardman’s average megawatts was about 500 aMW (compared to LSRD’s ~1000 aMW). Great concern emerged around grid reliability with the usual fear-mongering. Impacts on rates also dominated the concerns, although, notably, without parallel support or advocacy from these same utilities for increased low-income rate assistance. Despite these efforts, the Boardman plant ceased operations - and its harmful carbon production - in 2020. In the end, no one batted an eye about reliability when it closed. And the cost impact was considerably much less than feared. As costs for wind, solar, and battery storage continue to decline, replacement costs will also decrease, and grid reliability will increase.
These same fears about rates and reliability were trotted out again as discussions advanced to close the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia (WA) in 2011. TransAlta’s two coal-fired boilers produced roughly 1,500 megawatts (MW) of nameplate capacity with an average MW close to 1,200 aMW. The TransAlta plant produced more average energy and provided more peak winter supply than the lower Snake River dams. During consideration of legislation to close the coal plant, Centralia's mayor at the time wrote to the bill sponsor that “Crippling the grid and therefore the entire state economy would again be extremely irresponsible.” The president of TransAlta USA made very similar comments in testimony to the state legislature. Half of the plant (~600+ aMW) closed in 2020 - and no one batted an eye about any losses in reliability. And talk about reliability about the other half of the plant is muted. Costs have become a non-issue. The hyperbole around the plant closure, once again, were never realized.
In a final example, one of the largest coal plants in the West, the Colstrip in Montana, owned by regional utilities, is now slated to close in 2025. Colstrip’s four coal-fired boilers had a nameplate capacity of 2,363 MW with an average 80 percent capacity factor equaling about 1,890 aMW - supplying significantly more energy during the peak winter season than the LSR dams. Here again, plant closure opponents warned of dramatic rate increases and looming power outages. The first two boilers – one-third of the plant (624 aMW) – were originally slated to close in 2022. But once agreement to close was official, the plants' owners announced that it was no longer economically sustainable and they closed it two years early - in 2020. And the fear-mongering about skyrocketing rates and loss of reliability ended.
Across the U.S., more than 200 coal plants have recently closed or are currently scheduled to close as part of the big and urgent need to decarbonize our nation's economy. A consistent argument against closures: rising rates and decreasing reliability. Experience shows: rates are rarely impacted in meaningful ways, and more-often-than-not there is no affect at all. No power outages have occurred as a result of coal plant closures.
While the doom-and-gloom rhetoric has been more fear-mongering than reality, we must be mindful of big trends. Coal is going away. Gas plants must be phased out. Growing demand for the electrification of vehicles and buildings will add demand to our electrical systems. Thankfully, our brightest engineers across the West are working on “resource adequacy.” There will be challenges, but none that we can’t resolve with smart planning. We’ve done it before - literally hundreds of times - and we can do it again.
7. Recent Snake River/salmon media roundup
Here are some recent stories about the urgency and opportunity today for the Snake River and Northwest salmon recovery:
- Spokesman Review Op-ed: Helen Neville: The need to breach the Lower Snake River dams: A look at 2022 fish returns (Nov. 10, 2022)
- KPVI 6: Conservationists: To save salmon, dams must come down (Nov. 14, 2022)
- High Country News: When dams come down, fish come home (Nov. 8, 2022)
- OPB: Hundreds of gallons of oil leak into Snake River from Little Goose Dam (Oct. 31, 2022)
- Tri-City Herald: Dam turbine leaks hundreds of gallons of oil into Snake River in Eastern WA (Oct. 26, 2022)