WWSSNild 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 Carrie Herrman.


1. Washington State Governor announces a key step toward developing a plan to remove the lower Snake River dams
2. EPA increases pressure on Snake River dams by requiring the U.S. Army Corps to address pollution and hot water in their reservoirs.
3. Nez Perce and Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians launch 'Salmon Orca Project'
4. Washington State Democrats vote to restore the lower Snake River for salmon, orca, and tribes
5. Watch the latest from PBS Idaho Outdoors - 'Salmon Reckoning'
6. Full-page newspaper ads highlight the tragic plight of Columbia-Snake River steelhead in 2022 and harmful effects on businesses and communities
7. Join our Fall 'Wild Salmon Speaker Series': October 21st, November 4th, and November 18th

1. Washington State Governor announces a key step toward developing a plan to remove the lower Snake River dams

2021.murray.insleeOn Oct. 14, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced that he and U.S. Senator Patty Murray are working to develop an action plan by early summer 2022 to protect and restore critically endangered salmon and steelhead populations in the Snake River Basin. In the near-term, they are focused on identifying what’s needed to replace the services provided today by the lower Snake River dams, in the event that they need to be breached or bypassed.

Governor Inslee's comments are significant. They reflect growing political leadership and a critical step forward in the regional conversation that Congressman Mike Simpson (ID) kicked off last February about the urgent need for a comprehensive solution that restores the lower Snake River while also investing in Northwest communities and infrastructure.

The good news is that we know the dams’ services - energy, irrigation, and transportation – are fully replaceable. There are numerous studies and reports demonstrating this. Gov. Inslee and Sen. Murray aren't starting from scratch. Far from it.

We also know that if we do not act quickly to restore this historic river, we will lose these irreplaceable fish - and the many benefits they bring to people, orcas, and ecosystems - forever. Quoting Rep. Simpson: "Everything we do on this river we can do differently. The salmon, however, need a river."

In addition to Rep. Simpson, Gov. Kate Brown, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer are also leaning in. The growing engagement of Washington State’s governor and senior U.S. Senator is another essential ingredient to advance this conversation and to restore the lower Snake River and its salmon. Salmon, fishing, orca and clean energy advocates need to support their leadership - and we will need to hold them accountable as well.

With Gov. Inslee’s comments last week– in partnership with Sen. Murray - the movement to restore the Snake River has taken an important step forward. While they have not (yet!) explicitly committed themselves to dam removal, they have announced their decision to develop in the next several months a plan for replacing the dams’ services.

Amidst encouraging news remains this sobering fact: time is very short. They - we - need to act quickly. The quasi-extinction analysis by the Nez Perce Tribe's Department of Fisheries makes this crystal clear. Salmon - and the orcas that depend upon them - are struggling to survive. Fish returns to the Snake River this year are among the lowest on record. Fishing communities and businesses are suffering due to shrinking opportunity and season closures. And we all share a responsibility to uphold the promises that our nation made to the tribal people of the Northwest 150 years ago.

Our region - and Congress and the Biden Administration - must develop and act on a comprehensive action plan by or before the middle of next year.

Here are three articles reporting on Gov. Inslee’s recent comments. And, as the articles suggest, we expect to hear more from Senator Murray shortly:

2. EPA increases pressure on Snake River dams by requiring the U.S. Army Corps to address pollution and hot water in their reservoirs. 

Environmental Protection Agency logoThe lower Snake River dams and their reservoirs have been harming endangered salmon and steelhead for many years by discharging chemicals and causing heat pollution. Thanks to the doggedness of SOS member organization Columbia Riverkeeper, this must now cease.

For the first time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set limits on oil and hot water pollution generated by the four federal dams on the lower Snake River. The EPA is now requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) to collect water quality samples, report data to the EPA and the public, and significantly reduce the pollution caused and created by the four dams.

“Dams that pollute no longer get a free pass,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “The Army Corps’ dams spill dirty oil and heat up the rivers to unbearable temperatures for salmon. It’s long past time for the Army Corps to correct its illegal pollution problems.”

Today’s permits are the result of years of work by Columbia Riverkeeper. It first sued the Army Corps, which owns and operates the dams, in 2013 for illegally discharging pollution without a permit. The agency then applied for permits in 2015, as required by the settlement in that lawsuit, and the EPA finally issued the permits in late September. The EPA delayed issuing those permits after the State of Washington recently asserted its authority under the Clean Water Act and required the Army Corps to meet state water quality standards.

These permits cover these Snake River dams - Ice Harbor; Lower Monumental; Little Goose; and Lower Granite – and require the Army Corps to "implement temperature control strategies." Reducing the dams’ temperature pollution will be very difficult (impossible?) as long as the dams remain in place. These permits create new pressure on a costly and unsustainable status quo – and to remove these dams to restore this river and its endangered native fish.

“We saw thousands of salmon dying in hot water again this year. Yet, the Army Corps did nothing to address the crisis that it created. These permits require the Army Corps to cool the rivers to protect salmon,” said VandenHeuvel.

Environmental law professor Michel Blumm explains in a recent article: “Considering salmon population trajectories and climate change trends, there is a very real possibility that imposing these requirements on the dams may represent the last best chance to restore Snake River salmon and trout runs."


3. Nez Perce and Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians launch 'Salmon Orca Project'

Screen Shot 2021 10 18 at 11.51.35 AMIn late September, the Nez Perce Tribe and Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) announced the launch of their new Salmon Orca Project. In response to the increasingly urgent salmon extinction crisis in the Columbia Basin, the Salmon Orca Project directly calls on President Biden’s Administration to take swift and unequivocal action to remove the four lower Snake River dams and replace their limited benefits, with billions of dollars of investments in a new future for the Pacific Northwest communities and infrastructure.

In a news release, the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman, Samuel Penney stated:

"We are battling for the future of a sacred way of life for many in our region. The United States and Native nations signed treaties - treaties that were to ensure the existence and protection of salmon in perpetuity. But, our salmon are going extinct. Treaties have not been honored. As a result, our people and our culture and our very way of life face extinction. That’s why we stand united as Tribal Nations and call on the Biden Administration to honor the treaties made between our sovereign nations. We call on this Administration to work with us to replace the Lower Snake River Dams. And we call on the Administration to do so now, not tomorrow or two years from now. The time to act is now.”

Save Our wild Salmon stands in solidarity with the movement led by the Northwest Tribal Nations to save and restore salmon and orcas and to honor and respect Tribal treaties and sovereignty by removing the four lower dams in the Snake River as part of a larger regional strategy to recover salmon and invest in communities. The lower Snake River dams have had a devastating impact on salmon and other fish and wildlife - and on the ways of life and cultures of many Indigenous communities. We must ACT NOW to protect sacred natural landscapes and honor our nation's commitments to Northwest tribes. You can sign the Salmon Orca Project’s letter to the Biden Administration and Department of Interior here.

Visit the Salmon Orca Project and follow the Salmon Orca Project on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

4. Washington State Democrats vote to restore the lower Snake River for salmon, orca, and tribes

dam.irrigationThe Save Our wild Salmon Coalition has long called for the Northwest’s public officials to step up and take critical actions, including the removal of four deadly dams on the lower Snake River to recover endangered salmon and steelhead, and salmon-dependent orcas. With Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and with Northwest members in leadership positions in both chambers, the engaged leadership of these Members of Congress is critical. That’s why a recent statement from Democratic Party leaders in Washington is good news for our region's endangered native fish and the many benefits they bring to our region.

The Washington State Democrats Central Committee overwhelmingly endorsed a call for restoring the lower Snake River for salmon, orcas, and tribes. At their Sept. 25 meeting, the Central Committee voted 127-24 in favor of a resolution making these key points:

  • Recognizes the urgency of the situation for salmon and orcas
  • Acknowledges and honors the moral and legal claims of Northwest Tribes
  • Calls for breaching the lower Snake River dams and making investments in clean energy and in transportation and irrigation infrastructure to replace the services the dams now provide
  • Acknowledges the leadership of Sen. Patty Murray (WA), Gov. Jay Inslee (WA), and Rep. Mike Simpson (ID), and
  • Calls on the Biden Administration to not defend the Trump salmon plan in court.

This action by Party activists from across the state sends a clear signal to Democratic elected officials that there is strong support for serious action to recover these iconic endangered creatures.

5. Watch the latest from PBS Idaho Outdoors - 'Salmon Reckoning'

Screen Shot 2021 10 18 at 12.08.58 PM

Watch “Salmon Reckoning,” a moving 26-minute episode from Outdoor Idaho. It does an excellent job of summarizing recent developments and diverse viewpoints in Idaho and around the Northwest about endangered salmon and steelhead recovery efforts; lower Snake River dam removal; honoring Tribal sovereignty culture and Tribal treaties; and the important role of science in making an informed decision of this river, its fish and its people. “Salmon Reckoning”  explores Congressman Mike Simpson’s comprehensive plan for Northwest salmon and communities and commitment to work with Tribes, farmers, irrigators, power utilities to create a better future for the Northwest. Learn the perspectives of Hemene James, Coeur D’Alene Tribal Council Member; Douglas James, Lummi Nation Tribal Member; Lynda Mapes, Seattle Times journalist; Ed Chaney, long-time salmon advocate, among others.

Watch Outdoor Idaho’s “Salmon Reckoning” episode here! 

6. Full page newspaper ads highlight the tragic plight of Columbia-Snake River steelhead in 2022 and harmful effects on businesses and communities

On Sunday, October 3 a 'Steelhead Mean Business' full-page print ads were published by Save Our wild Salmon in partnership with more than 30 Northwest-based businesses, business associations, and non-governmental organizations in three regional papers - Spokesman-Review (WA), Lewiston Morning Tribune (ID) and Bend Bulletin (OR).

These ads kick off an important outreach project highlighting the urgent plight of Snake/Columbia River steelhead. Not long ago, millions of wild steelhead would flood into the Snake and Columbia rivers to spawn before returning to the Pacific Ocean to do it all over again.

Not anymore.

Scientists are predicting this year’s return of wild steelhead to the Snake River Basin will be among the lowest - if not the lowest - ever recorded. Unless we act quickly, one of nature’s recurring miracles - and the cultures, ecologies and communities it supports in the Northwest - will fade away forever.

As a result of these devastating returns, fishing seasons have been curtailed and closed across the Snake and Columbia River Basin. Hundreds of businesses in scores of communities are paying a high price.

Time is running out and we need urgent action - before steelhead, our livelihoods and our traditions go extinct forever. PLEASE ACT NOW: Call and/or write your U.S. Senators in the Northwest today: "Steelhead - and the businesses, communities, and ways of life that rely upon them - are running out of time." Working together, we can send a strong message to our public officials in the Northwest - calling for their leadership to protect endangered Snake River steelhead (and salmon) and the many businesses and communities across the Northwest that benefit from healthy, abundant, and fishable populations.

7. Join our Fall 'Wild Salmon Speaker Series': Oct. 21st, Nov. 4th, and Nov. 18th

fall webinar 2021Join us for our online speaker series (via zoom) on October 21st, November 4th, and November 18th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm PST to learn about the challenges, opportunities, and implications of restoring the lower Snake River and its endangered fish by removing four federal dams. We'll explore ways we can resolve today's Snake and Columbia river salmon crisis in a manner that also ensures clean, reliable, and affordable energy and prosperous communities and cultures.

October 21: Getting to Yes: Reflecting on the long road to a restored lower Snake River. With guest speakers Pat Ford, Sara Patton and LeeAnne Beres. Link to the Facebook event

November 4th: Perspectives from Northeast Oregon on salmon recovery and restoring the lower Snake River. With guest speakers Christina de Villier Adam Capetillo and Andrea Malmberg. Link to the Facebook event

November 18th: Stories from scientists: Reflecting on science, politics and salmon recovery in the Snake and Columbia rivers. With guest speakers Helen Neville, Rick Williams, and Jim Martin. Link to the Facebook event

Please RSVP here.

Visit our Fall Speaker Series webpage for more detailed information.

Have questions? Contact carrie@wildsalmon.org

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