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 of the Northwest, and the extinction crisis they face today. You’ll learn about our campaign 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 help protect and restore healthy, abundant and fishable populations.
Contact Carrie if you have questions or to discuss how to get more involved.
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Nimiipuu River Rendezvous 2019! Hundreds gather in support of restoring a freely-flowing lower Snake River and its endangered native fishes.
- Fifty-five scientists send letter to policymakers - With warming waters, we have a choice to make in the lower Snake River: it's either dams or salmon.
- Save Our wild Salmon and Earth Ministry co-host “Loaves and Fishes” in Spokane.
- Salmon and orca advocates press Northwest Power and Conservation Council members for urgent action and leadership.
- Advocates press Washington and Oregon to fix water quality standards to increase spill and help salmon now!
- Dammed to Extinction documentary gains a national profile with screenings in Washington D.C. and New York City.
- Coming in early 2020: The court-ordered review of Columbia/Snake River salmon/steelhead recovery options is due for public release in February 2020
- Farewell (for now!) to Angela – superstar organizer in our Seattle office!
During a long weekend in September, tribal and non-tribal fishermen, business people, conservationists and others from across the Pacific Northwest came together to celebrate salmon and the many benefits they bring to people and ecosystems – and to raise our voices in support of a freely-flowing lower Snake River. This was the fifth annual gathering on the banks of the lower Snake River and was formerly called the “Free the Snake Flotilla.”
More than 400 people joined forces at the Hell’s Gate State Park outside of Lewiston (ID) and Clarkston (WA) for a paddle on the lower Snake River on Saturday and a series of presentations, discussions and films (Dammed to Extinction and A Healing Journey) over the course of the weekend. This year’s event was led by the Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, with support from several other organizations, including SOS. The Rendezvous drew people from all over the Pacific Northwest, and had fantastic youth attendance with scores of high school and college students – the next generation of water protectors and salmon restorers!
We extend a huge thank you to everyone that attended and helped with the Rendezvous this year – especially to Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment and the many supporting and participating organizations including Earthjustice, Friends of the Clearwater, Defenders of Wildlife, Spokane Falls Trout Unlimited, Earth Ministry, Palouse-Clearwater Trout Unlimited and Sierra Club.
Also, many thanks to Spokane-based Roast House Coffee who kept the event deliciously caffeinated with sustainably-produced coffee. And a huge shout-out to Spokane’s solar installation company Eco Depot who provided the safety pontoon boat, endless volunteer help and boundless energy and enthusiasm. Solar Saves Salmon.
On Oct. 22, fifty-five scientists sent a letter to the governors and Members of Congress of Idaho, Washington and Oregon to highlight how the federal dams and reservoirs on the lower Snake River are combining with a changing climate to elevate water temperatures to lethal levels for salmon in summer months. As you may recall, high river temperatures devastated the sockeye salmon return to the Columbia-Snake Basin in 2015. It killed 250,000 sockeye salmon in July and August, including 96 percent of federally endangered sockeye returning to the Snake River. As the climate warms, years like 2015 will become more frequent, more intense and longer lasting.
In their letter to policymakers, scientists stated that lower Snake River dam removal is our best, and very likely only, option to reduce temperatures sufficiently to protect Snake River salmon from extinction. Restoring the lower Snake River and access for native fish to the thousands of miles of pristine rivers and streams in Idaho, northeast Oregon and southeast Washington is also our very best salmon/river restoration opportunity anywhere on the West Coast.
The scientists letter to policymakers regarding hot water in the lower Snake River is available here.
At a Spokane Loaves and Fishes event on October 22 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, a panel of farmers, commercial fishermen, Northwest tribal members and activists led a discussion with a room full of community members on a wide range of related topics including the lower Snake River dams, salmon conservation, agriculture, and tribal justice in the Columbia-Snake River Basin. The event, hosted by SOS and Earth Ministry, was aimed at addressing the well-being and future of salmon and the human communities that rely on healthy, resilient rivers.
Explained Earth Ministry Program and Outreach Director Jessica Zimmerle, “we believe in a future in which we can honor tribal treaty rights and restore salmon and ensure the livelihood of our farmers and fishermen, all with a vibrant, free-flowing lower Snake River.”
Loaves and Fishes is an on-going event series in the Inland Northwest co-lead by SOS and Earth Ministry, and supported by other organizations and community members.
These community events are designed to foster conversation that both highlight the challenges facing salmon and their rivers in the Columbia-Snake River Basin and explore durable, inclusive solutions to restore healthy salmon populations and ensure vibrant fishing and farming communities locally and regionally. For more information, contact Carrie: firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOS teamed up with Sierra Club, Earth Ministry and others on October 15 to host a reception, rally and informal training in Seattle to help people understand and prepare for the Northwest Power Council’s final public hearing on its latest Fish and Wildlife Amendment. The Council updates their F&W plan every five years, and they’ve been taking public comment from across the region over the past several months.
Our organizing efforts turned out the largest crowd the Council has seen in any of their hearings to date. We had over a hundred people attend our pre-hearing rally, and then approximately 25 people provided testimony. People spoke from a range of perspectives – but everyone echoed the same themes: time is urgent, salmon and orca face extinction today, and the Council needs to think creatively, move quickly and engage their Governors (Inslee, Brown, Little and Bullock) in pursuing the big actions that salmon, orca and Northwest communities need today – including the restoration of the lower Snake River and its endangered salmon and steelhead.
The speakers were all excellent and included two representatives of the Chinook Nation near the mouth of the Columbia River, a 9-year old boy named Henry, energy experts, orca researchers, salmon advocates, fishing people, and many more. Some people delivered facts; others spoke poignantly from the heart. All asked for leadership and urgent and effective action. A huge thanks from SOS to everyone that attended and supported the speakers.
You can read Joseph’s public comments/testimony here.
According to scores of salmon biologists, spilling water over the federal dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers is the best thing that the federal agencies who manage the dams can do in the near-term to help endangered salmon and steelhead as they migrate as young fish to the Pacific Ocean through the lethal system of dams and reservoirs.
The fact is: 'spill' is a critical lifeline now for imperiled Snake River fish until we have a long-term, lawful plan that removes four federal dams and replace their modest services with alternatives.
Salmon and fishing advocates working with the State of Oregon and Nez Perce Tribe have, through highly effective court action, repeatedly forced the federal agencies to steadily increase dam spill in the spring and summer when the juvenile fish are migrating to the ocean.
Back in December 2018, however, the federal agencies decided to join an interim agreement with Oregon, Washington and the Nez Perce Tribe to increase spill ‘flexibly’ between 2019-2021. This “flexible spill agreement” was designed to do three things during these three years: improve fish survival, reduce spill’s financial hit on BPA, and lessen the risk of new litigation.
In order to fully implement this agreement for the 2020 and 2021 salmon migrations, it requires Oregon and Washington to modify their water quality standards and thereby allow increased spill at the dams. Both states are working hard now to get this done – and SOS and allied organizations are keeping a close eye to ensure the new rules are done right and on time. We’ve submitted technical letters; we’ve testified at public hearings; and we (with your support!) have delivered hundreds of signatures from citizens pressing both states to do right by salmon and permanently modify their water quality standards to 125% total dissolved gas (TDG) in time for the Spring 2020 out-migration.
As of today, we expect Washington to issue its new rule in December 2019, and Oregon to issue its new rule in January 2020. We will keep you posted on developments.
For now, we want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who has been part of this relentless multi-year pressure campaign. Your efforts – our collective efforts – have worked (though there is still much to be done of course!). Together, we’ve steadily ratcheted up spill levels and strengthened this critical lifeline for endangered salmon and steelhead for the next several years while we continue our work with others in the region to restore a freely flowing lower Snake River that saves salmon, saves orca and saves money – in a manner that helps fishing and farming communities across the region. Thank you.
For more information:
NY Times: How Long Before These Salmon Are Gone? ‘Maybe 20 Years’ (September 16, 2019)
Daily Kos: Endangered orcas' fate is tied to a series of dams 400 miles inland (September 1, 2019)
Dammed to Extinction, the gripping and evocative documentary, explores the urgent plight of Southern Resident orcas and their need for many more chinook salmon in Northwest coastal waters to survive, reproduce and recover. The film has been accepted by numerous film festivals, including the Anderson Island Film Festival (WA), Gig Harbor Film Festival (WA), Eugene Environmental Film Festival (OR) EcoFilm Festival (OR) and – most recently – the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York City.
SOS has been working with the film-makers and other partners to host screenings of the film across the Northwest. In October, we also helped screen Dammed to Extinction in Washington D.C. The film-makers and two orca experts from Washington State flew to the nation’s capitol for the screening and a set of meetings with Northwest lawmakers.
Thousands of people have attended screenings this year in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Movie goers already have sent postcards and made phone calls to their senators and governors to urge them to bring people together to craft a plan that restores the lower Snake River by removing its four costly dams and replacing the modest services they provide with alternatives like renewable energy and expanded rail lines.
SOS extends a huge ‘thank you’ to filmmakers Steven Hawley and Michael Peterson for dedicating their talents to produce this timely, moving film. We’ll continue to co-host and promote screenings around region.
If you are interested in hosting a screening or want to share ‘Dammed to Extinction’ with your friends and family, don’t hesitate to reach out to SOS. We’re happy to help. You can look for upcoming screenings here.
Also, DVD and Blu-Ray versions of the film are NOW AVAILABLE for sale at www.dammedtoextinction.com.
Back in 2016 when the U.S. District Court in Portland invalidated the federal government’s last Columbia Basin salmon plan, it ordered a comprehensive review in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to examine all credible recovery options – including the removal of the four lower Snake River dams. An initial version of the review is nearing completion and a Draft Report (DEIS) will be released to the public in February, followed by a 45-day comment period. A set of public meetings/hearings are rumored, but details are not yet available.
The upcoming DEIS and comment period is a critical opportunity for people to mobilize and call on the engagement and leadership of Northwest policymakers to work with each other, stakeholders, and Northwest people to craft a lawful, science-based solution that truly protects endangered salmon and steelhead AND invests in Northwest communities and economy. Salmon and orca face extinction today and we desperately need solutions that will work for both fishers and farmers. Restoring the lower Snake River must occur in a manner that brings all of the region’s communities forward together.
When ordered by the court in 2016, the review presented a huge opportunity for the people of the Pacific Northwest – to examine our recovery options and understand the costs and benefits and tradeoffs of restoring a freely flowing lower Snake River – the action that Northwest biologists agree is our best and very likely only option to protect endangered salmon and steelhead populations from extinction.
The three federal agencies managing the federal dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers are the Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Their 25-year track record has been dismal: five consecutive federal plans for protecting Columbia and Snake River salmon and steelhead from extinction have all been rejected by the courts as inadequate and illegal. The agencies are now working on their 6th effort, while salmon, orca and fishing communities hang in the balance. It is undeniably clear today that the federal agencies will not and cannot resolve the Northwest’s biggest natural resource conflict with their new plan coming in 2020. Northwest people – and salmon and orcas – need the urgent engagement of Northwest governors and Members of Congress working with stakeholders and citizens to craft a lawful, science-based plan that includes restoring the lower Snake River. To get this done, we’ll also need to transition and invest in affected communities to ensure that we all move forward together.
Even if they wanted to, the federal agencies don’t have the mission or authority or charge to deliver a comprehensive solution. This is why we urgently need Northwest leaders stepping in and stepping up – bringing people together to develop a durable plan that protects and restores salmon, and invests in and transitions affected communities.
We need your voice – especially in early 2020 – to call for urgent leadership from our Governors and Members of Congress to bring people together and solve this linked set of problems.
We want to wish superstar organizer Angela Moran the very best and a huge “thank you” for her amazing contributions to SOS’ work over the past 13 months. We are very sad to see her leave, but excited about her new opportunity – Angela is taking a new position with the Seattle Aquarium as a policy assistant (while she continues to work towards a Masters degree at the University of Washington).
Angela has her fingerprints all over SOS’ organizing, outreach, policy and communications work over the past year. She’s organized numerous screenings of Dammed to Extinction, produced the 2019 Hot Water Report, and assembled newsletters, display and outreach materials. Angela has staffed SOS tabling events, helped fundraise, lobbied in Olympia, talked to reporters, and much more.
We are very grateful for all of your contributions, wish you the very best at the Aquarium, and know that we’ll stay in touch. Thank you Angela! – Joseph, Sam, Carrie and the whole SOS team.
The Northwest needs leadership NOW! Contact the governors and congress members of Washington and Oregon and tell them that salmon, orca, and Northwest people need a plan that invests in restoring our iconic species and investing in our local communities!
Have questions? Have ideas? Want to get move involved? Reach out to Carrie today!