The intense pace of work at SOS around Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead recovery and related issues continues. Here's our latest issue of the Wild Salmon & Steelhead News (Sept. 2018). Read on to get caught up and find out how you can help.
IN THIS ISSUE:
1. 4th Annual Flotilla to Free the Snake! draws 800 attendees - and includes some very special guests
2. ***Breaking News!*** Anti-salmon legislation in U.S. Congress dealt a serious blow in September
3. Republican lawmakers host Congressional field hearing in Washington State’s Tri-Cities region
4. Governor Inslee’s Orca Task Force scrambles toward its mid-Nov. deadline: increased 'spill' and a restored lower Snake River must be top priorities
5. U.S. State Department hosts Town Hall meeting on modernizing the Columbia River Treaty in Portland, OR
6. Required Reading: A roundup of recent media
7. A huge 'thank you' and farewell (for now!) to Jacob Schmidt, SOS star organizing intern
***TAKE ACTION NOW***
(1) CALL/WRITE Senator Murray (WA), Congressmembers Adam Smith (WA), Pramila Jayapal (WA), and Earl Blumenauer (OR). THANK THEM for their active public leadership to block anti-salmon legislation HR 3144 and Section 506 in the E&W spending bill.
(2) CONTACT Governor Inslee: "More spill and fewer dams! Restore Columbia-Snake salmon to protect critically endangered Southern Resident orcas from extinction!"
1. 4th Annual Flotilla to Free the Snake! draws 800 attendees and includes several very special guests.
For our 4th year, SOS teamed up with Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, Friends of the Clearwater, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and many other groups, businesses and individuals on September 7 and 8 to host our biggest Free the Snake! Flotilla ever. Over 800 people gathered on traditional Nez Perce lands at Chief Timothy Park on the banks of the lower Snake River just outside Lewiston (ID) and Clarkston (WA). Many camped out on the 7th and/or 8th. We shared fry-bread and salmon donated by the Nez Perce Tribe. People came from all over – some as far away as Colorado and California. Many Tribal members attended - coming from the Columbia Basin, Salish Sea region and beyond.
The two-day event included information tables, welcome and closing ceremonies, and speakers and music. Special guests included Winona LaDuke – the internationally recognized Tribal activist from the White Earth region of the Upper Midwest known for both tenaciously fighting new fossil fuel projects that threaten us all as well as her advocacy for sustainable development and communities. Saturday evening attendees were treated to an intimate evening with Nahko (of Nahko and Medicine for the People). He performed a solo acoustic set of his songs late into the evening.
Saturday’s flotilla drew hundreds of people onto the (for now!) flat waters of the reservoir created by Lower Granite – the uppermost of the lower Snake’s four dams. It included a tribally-led canoe paddle that began in the morning upstream on the Clearwater River on the Nez Perce reservation. For one of the five canoes, it was the first time on the water – the first traditional hand-carved canoe to be produced and paddled by members of the Nez Perce Tribe in 113 years! The traditional canoe culture of many Columbia Basin Tribes had been lost for generations, but today is enjoying a revival in many communities.
Finally, we want to communicate a huge thank you – first and foremost to our Nimiipuu partners and hosts, and then to the many organizations, businesses and individuals that helped to organize and support and attend another amazing Flotilla to raise our voices together – to Free the lower Snake River, its endangered native fish populations – and the irreplaceable benefits they deliver to our region. Follow this link to FreeTheSnake.com to see a list of the organizations and businesses that supported this year’s Flotilla.
2. ***Breaking News!*** Anti-salmon legislation in the U.S. Congress dealt a serious blow in September
We have some excellent news to report from Washington D.C - a rare thing these days. The anti-salmon, anti-spill, anti-dam removal legislation that has been championed by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers since spring of 2017 was dealt a serious setback earlier this week. Aided by a small number of allies in Northwest states, Rep. McMorris Rodgers has relentlessly pushed two pieces of anti-salmon legislation. She introduced HR 3144 last year. It seeks to roll back critical salmon protections (increased spill) recently ordered by the court, undermine the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, overturn federal court rulings, and fatally constrain the court-ordered environmental review of salmon restoration alternatives in the Columbia Basin – including the removal of the four lower Snake River dams. While 3144 passed the House roughly along party lines, it has no Senate champion and has not been introduced there. Unless this changes (and that seems unlikely now), the chances for passage of 3144 is this Congress have significantly slimmed.
This spring, Rep. McMorris Rodgers also added a legislative rider – Section 506 or what many called the ‘Salmon Extinction Rider’ – on this year’s Energy & Water Resources spending bill. This rider was one of 3144’s key provisions – it would roll back court-ordered salmon 'spill' at the dams on the lower Snake and lower Columbia rivers. Spill is one of our most effective near-term salmon protections – short of LSR dam removal. Spill is an essential near-term action to buy critical time for endangered salmon while we continue our work to restore a freely flowing lower Snake River as part of a larger salmon plan for the Columbia Basin. Spill can help boost salmon populations in the Columbia Basin in the next several years – and thus is also an essential measure to help feed Southern Resident orcas that need more food now!
Well, we learned on Monday evening (9.10) – just after the Congressional Field Hearing in Pasco (see story below) was completed – that the Salmon Extinction Rider has been removed from the E&W Resources bill. This is a huge victory for salmon and orca, and for the many communities and people working hard to protect and rebuild our iconic fish populations. While the rider was blocked, Rep. McMorris Rodgers did insert a short paragraph into the Committee Report that accompanies this bill. Though this language is inaccurate and misleading, it is also non-binding and will not have any effect on spill, the NEPA review, or court decisions.
This victory is the result of coordinated, effective, and relentless pressure by the growing coalition of salmon/orca/river/fishing advocates and their allies across the Northwest and nation. More and more people recognize the costly failures of the federal agencies' past so-called ‘salmon recovery’ efforts, the importance of allowing science to guide our decision-making, the high price of degraded ecosystems and intensifying risk of salmon and orca extinction. And, ultimately, the realization that the feds' long-time strategy is working for no one - and a new approach is desperately needed.
As a result of our/your collective work, politics and policy in the Northwest is shifting. Kudos are especially due to Senator Patty Murray who led this regional fight to stop the Salmon Extinction Act (HR 3144) and Rider (Section 506). Senator Murray recognized these bills for what they were: harmful to salmon and harmful to regional processes and discussions occurring today to address the problems that face salmon, orca and Northwest communities. HR 3144 and Section 506 are both highly divisive to the Northwest communities that must work together on shared solutions to common problems. Thanks and praise are also due to other key elected officials who worked vigilantly to prevent these bills from becoming law, including Reps. Adam Smith, Pramila Jayapal, Earl Blumenauer, Derek Kilmer, Denny Heck, and others.
Importantly, when HR 3144 came to the House floor for a vote, all the Democratic lawmakers in Oregon and Washington voted the right way - against it – with one exception – Rep. Kurt Schrader from Oregon.
If you are represented by these lawmakers in Oregon or Washington (Rep. Schrader being the exception), please reach out to thank them for their leadership and ask them to keep pushing the region toward real, lasting solutions for our salmon, orca, rivers and communities.
It is important to remember that nothing is totally safe or certain until Congress officially adjourns later this year, so we must all remain vigilant. For the moment, however, we can breath a sign of relief. Thank you to all that worked on and helped our efforts to block this harmful legislation.
3. Republican lawmakers hold Congressional Field Hearing in Tri-Cities (WA).
On September 10, Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers hosted a Congressional Field hearing in Pasco in south-central Washington State. The two-hour hearing provided these lawmakers a platform to serve up now well-known tropes of misleading, inaccurate and de-bunked science and policy that wrongly pits farmers against fishers – dividing communities at a time when we need to be coming together to address common problems with shared solutions.
According to Reps. Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers:
• Salmon and steelhead populations are doing fine. There’s no problem.
• Increased levels of spill harm salmon, is unsupported by science and could cause regional energy blackouts.
• Spill and lower dam removal will cause economic devastation locally and regionally.
• Orca are just the latest reason by anti-dam activists that actually really don't care about salmon. These zealots just want to remove dams.
• The lower Snake River dams and salmon can co-exist.
• LSR dam removal means increased reliance on fossil fuels and increased carbon emissions.
The lawmakers and their select witnesses strategically combined the “Columbia-Snake” dam projects as a single, indivisible system. In doing so, they imply that salmon advocates seek to remove dams on the Columbia as well as Snake River (not true). And by insisting on lumping together the mainstem dams on both rivers, the dams’ defenders block any meaningful scrutiny of the truly high-cost, low-value dams on the lower Snake.
This field hearing only reinforces the importance of our collective work over time to encourage, develop and distribute accurate, credible information on the real problems – and more importantly the solutions – facing imperiled salmon and orca, degraded rivers and watershed and struggling communities.
Two witnesses were invited by the minority party to present a different perspective – and both did an excellent job to correct the record and challenge the misinformation repeated by Reps. Newhouse, McMorris Rodgers and their witnesses. Minority witnesses included McCoy Oatman, Vice-Chair of the Nez Perce Tribal Council and Glen Spain, regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. In different ways, they spoke of the importance of protecting and restoring healthy rivers and healthy populations of salmon and steelhead, some of the critical changes that are needed in the federal system of dams in order to achieve this, and how the steep salmon declines in the Columbia Basin harm communities and cultures inland and across the West Coast.
SOS understands that restoring the lower Snake River will require change in this region. Transitions and investments will be needed for local affected communities to ensure that the modest energy, transportation and irrigation infrastructure these four dams provide are replaced with efficient, cost-effective alternatives like solar and wind resources and upgraded rail lines. These types of investments – and a restored river and salmon - represent a tremendous opportunity for our communities locally and regionally. This transition will require thoughtful planning and we cannot get these types of discussions started soon enough.
4. Governor Inslee’s Orca Task Force scrambles toward its mid-November deadline: increased spill and a restored lower Snake River must be top priorities.
We’ll keep this report short – but not for lack of content and activity! The leaders and members of the Orca Task Force are working fast and furious to meet the new (slightly extended) deadline of Nov. 16 for delivery of its first set of recommended action to Govenor Inslee in order to protect the Southern Residents from extinction. As you know, lack of sufficient prey - especially chinook salmon - is the top need that must be addressed as quickly as possible, with reducing vessel interference and toxin loads running a close second.
It remains a steep learning curve for Task Force members, given the tight timelines, wide-ranging issue areas and large geography.
Asyou read this, draft recommendations are starting to emerge from the three working groups, but at this stage, with educational webinars still for Task Force members still on the calendar, we understand that things are still very much in flux. The OTF’s supporting staff and facilitators are clearly working very hard to make progress, address concerns and needs. Everyone's attention and continued scrutiny and pressure on the Governor and on the Task Force will be needed to achieve the big, bold actions that are needed to protect the Southern Residents from extinction.
(1) 33 scientists delivered a letter to the Task Force members at the Anacortes (WA) meeting in August – strongly urging two specific recommendations for action in the Columbia Basin: increased spill at federal dams and the restoration of the lower Snake River by removing its four federal dams.
(2) Nearly all the public comment delivered in Anacortes focused on the restoring the lower Snake River and its salmon. Time constraints limited public comment to less than two dozen people. 157 people had signed up to speak. Go here to provide public input to the Task Force online!
(3) SOS distributed these factsheets with the Task Force members on energy and transportation: NW Energy Coalition Lower Snake River Power Replacement Study, and two from Lin Laughy on lower Snake River energy and transportation.
5. U.S. State Department hosts Town Hall meeting on modernizing the U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty in Portland, OR
Over 150 people gathered at the Bonneville Power Administration building in Portland Oregon on the evening of September 6 to hear from Jill Smail, the chief negotiator for the U.S., and to share their concerns and priorities for the treaty and negotiations now under way.
Ms. Smail made a 30 minute presentation on the history and significance of the treaty. Few details were provided about the status of negotiations between the two nations, which are confidential and ongoing before turning the microphone over the attendees to share their views and visions for the treaty.
Portland’s Mayor Wheeler started off the public testimony with excellent comments focused on the importance of adding ecosystem function to the treaty and including tribes in the negotiations. The state of Oregon's comments focused on their desire for more water for irrigation, continued low-cost hydropower and the potential risk to the state's economy should a major flood hit Portland. Navigation interests focused their comments on the importance of regulating river flows to support economic activity.
A number of SOS partners and allies attended and/or testified, including John DeVoe of WaterWatch of Oregon, Jamison Cavallaro of the Sierra Club, Miles Johnson of Columbia Riverkeeper, Jessie Dye of Earth Ministry, and Raelene Gold of the League of Women Voters. Greg Haller, executive director of Pacific Rivers, highlighted a set of important points at the heart of a letter our U.S. Treaty Caucus recently sent to Ms. Smail that included the need for assured ecosystem flows, the creation of citizen advisory councils, the addition of a new representative to the U.S. Entity (currently dominated by dam agencies), and more. Chiara Rose, Northwest Representative of the Endangered Species Coalition, drew the important connection between a modernized treaty that will support healthy salmon populations and the survival and recovery of critically endangered Southern Resident orcas. Some residents questioned the State Department's logic of excluding the tribes from the negotiations.
6. Required Reading: A Round-up of Recent Media on Salmon, Orca and the Columbia-Snake River Basin.
(1) Tri-Cities Herald Guest Opinion: Just in case the Snake River dams go away (Nancy Hirsh, 8.31.2018)
(2) Seattle Times Guest Opinion: Grieving orca is a wake-up call for the health of Columbia (D.R. Michel, 9.7.2018)
(3) Truthout Guest Opinion: With Food Source Endangered, Southern Resident Killer Whales Face Extinction (Curtis Johnson, Sept 4)
(4) Columbia Rediviva: Hearts Like the Mountains (David James Duncan, 8.20.2018)
(5) Tri-Cities Herald Guest Opinion: Activist groups say give us our dammed Snake River back (Sam Mace, Buck Ryan, Brett VandenHeuvel, 8.23.2018)
(7) Jacob Schmidt Heads to Greece! A huge thank you to SOS' star organizing intern
SOS gives a warm send-off this week to Jacob & Faith Schmidt, who will soon embark on an overseas adventure beginning in Greece.
Jacob came to SOS as a volunteer in 2017, focusing his time on involving eastern Washington communities of faith in the effort to remove lower Snake dams to restore salmon and honor Treaty Rights. He gave presentations to local congregations and organized a field trip with people of faith on the lower Snake to meet with Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) leaders. He was the lead organizer on a series of gatherings hosted by churches this spring that brought together tribal members, people of faith, commercial fishermen and farmers to have a conversation about removing dams and restoring salmon to honor Treaty Rights and how communities can work together to ensure that fishermen and farmers are kept whole through this much-needed transition.
Jacob led a variety of other projects for SOS, including the Hot Water Project for 2018, which documented the hot water temperatures and other obstacles facing salmon on their journey through the Columbia-Snake River system. SOS is especially grateful for Jacob’s hard work on this year's Free the Snake Flotilla last weekend. This year’s flotilla was the largest yet, with more than 800 people participating over the course of the weekend.
And a special shout-out to Jacob’s wife, Faith. A talented graphic designer, she donated many hours designing post cards, posters and other outreach pieces for the SOS Team. A huge thanks to Faith!
The SOS family sends a Bon Voyage to Jacob and Faith as they set out on their adventure!