WSSNWild 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. What’s next for the Murray/Inslee initiative? And how you can help!
2. Keeping the water flowing to farmers with a restored Snake River
3. Oregon Governor Kate Brown speaks up for salmon and steelhead...again
4. SOS’ 2021 ‘Hot Water Report’ publishes its final issue - Here’s what you need to know
5. 2021 Columbia-Snake steelhead returns will be among the worst on record - disappointing anglers; hurting businesses and communities.
6. Recent related press coverage from across the Northwest...

1. What’s next for the Murray/Inslee initiative? And how you can help!

2021.murray.insleeMany Washingtonians - and Northwest residents generally - are anxiously awaiting further news from Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee about their plans and next steps to address the deepening salmon and steelhead crisis in the Columbia-Snake River Basin.

Call and write Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee today!

As you may recall back in May this year, Senator Murray and Governor Inslee issued a strongly-worded joint statement that, for the first time for these two statewide leaders, planted a stake firmly in the ground around the need for urgent, meaningful action to recover fish facing extinction in the Columbia Basin. Their statement included a number of core messages and priorities from Congressman Simpson's ‘Columbia Basin Initiative’ he announced earlier in February.

Here are some excerpts from the Murray/Inslee joint statement:

“Regional collaboration on a comprehensive, long-term solution to protect and bring back salmon populations in the Columbia River Basin and throughout the Pacific Northwest is needed now more than ever."

"Any solution must honor Tribal Treaty Rights; ensure reliable transportation and use of the river; ensure ongoing access for our region’s fishermen and sportsmen, guarantee Washington farmers remain competitive and are able to get Washington state farm products to market; and deliver reliable, affordable, and clean energy for families and businesses across the region."

The senator and governor called for a “formal, regional process... based on science, consensus, and ensuring all voices in the region are heard. Importantly, it is critical that this process takes all options into consideration, including the potential breaching of the four lower Snake River dams.”

Their approach will be “based upon comprehensive stakeholder input.” “Infrastructure must be part of the solution”, with “investments in clean energy storage solutions, habitat restoration, transportation infrastructure, waterway management, Washington’s agricultural economy, and more.”

Finally, they committed to working “with our Northwest Tribes, states, and all the communities that rely on the river system to achieve a solution promptly. We, too, want action and a resolution that restores salmon runs and works for all the stakeholders and communities in the Columbia River Basin.”

Read their full joint statement.

Call and write their offices today: "Time is running out for salmon and orcas. We urgently need their leadership!

 2. Keeping the water flowing to farmers with a restored Snake River

2021.LSR.irrigationRecognizing momentum for dam removal is growing, the Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association recently stepped out with a proposal to draw down the two uppermost lower Snake River reservoirs behind Little Goose and Lower Granite dams, while maintaining the two lower dams including Ice Harbor. This proposal is a significant position change for the Association, which has strongly opposed dam removal for decades. It is yet one more sign that change is coming and support for lower Snake River dam removal is gaining traction. Ice Harbor is the only dam on the lower Snake River that provides irrigation - providing water for roughly 50,000 acres of potatoes, vineyards, fruit trees, and other crops. Once small family farms, the bulk of these lands are now held by large corporations and investment funds including the Hancock Group, Ontario Teachers’ Pension, Crown West Realty as well as the LDS Church. Like the other lower Snake River dams, Ice Harbor is a “run-of-river” dam, not a water storage dam. Dam removal would not reduce Snake River water available to farms, but the infrastructure to pump and pipe this water would need to be altered.

In a recent Seattle Times feature, long-time irrigator spokesman Darryl Olson noted that some agricultural interests “have their heads in the sand” if they think the push for dam removal will go away. With Tribes, fishing businesses, conservationists, and others pushing for dam removal to restore imperiled salmon, steelhead, and orca and growing recognition by Northwest elected leaders that science-based action is needed, some interests traditionally opposed to dam removal are showing more openness to sitting down and hammering out a solution that can restore these iconic species and meet the needs of shippers, irrigators and farmers.

While fully restoring the lower Snake River corridor is the best action for wild salmon and steelhead, it is a positive sign that stakeholders are considering what a dam removal solution can look like. Can we keep the water flowing to maintain jobs and businesses without the Ice Harbor dam? YES! It will require thoughtful planning and investments in pumps, pipes, and other infrastructure. In some cases, it may also require deepening existing wells, and a strategy to manage upstream sediments that could be mobilized during the first few years after dam removal as the river begins to heal and recover. And it will be especially important, for example, to ensure water access is not temporarily interrupted for perennial crops such as orchards and vineyards.

Detailed planning for supporting these types of irrigation transitions needs to begin today. Salmon advocates will support these important investments as part of a larger dam removal package. We have different options for maintaining and ensuring irrigation. For Snake River salmon to avoid extinction, they only have one option - a free-flowing river.

 3. Oregon Governor Kate Brown speaks up for salmon and steelhead...again

Last month Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon published a guest opinion in the East Oregonian newspaper reiterating her support for an urgent, comprehensive solution that recovers endangered salmon and steelhead by removing the lower Snake River dams and investing in communities and critical infrastructure.

Gov. Brown properly recognizes the costly failure of past recovery efforts, the urgency for meaningful action now, and the opportunity before us today to bring people together from across the Northwest to develop a durable plan that restores salmon abundance and ensures community prosperity.

We know that the “defenders of the status quo” will react and continue their attacks on the Governor. She needs to hear strong support from Oregonians for her leadership and focus on comprehensive solutions that meet the needs of imperiled salmon and struggling communities.

If you live in Oregon, please take a minute to CONTACT GOV. BROWN to express your support for her voice and vision for a future with abundant salmon, a healthy climate, and vibrant communities!

 4. SOS’ 2021 ‘Hot Water Report’ publishes its final issue - Here’s what you need to know

2020.HOT WATERThis summer, The Save Our wild Salmon Coalition completed our sixth annual series of Hot Water Reports, tracking water temperatures in the reservoirs created by the federal dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers. Drawing on publicly available temperature data, our weekly reports from June to September helped spotlight the increasingly hot waters and existential threat they represent for the Northwest’s native cold-water fish like salmon and steelhead.

This summer, all four lower Snake River reservoirs experienced waters above 68°F for between 40 to 67 days. The reservoir behind the Ice Harbor Dam registered the highest temperature this summer - at 73.22°F on July 18. Lower Monumental Dam’s reservoir hit a high of 73.04°F on August 14, and the reservoir registered above 68°F for 67 days this summer.

The longer and higher temperatures rise above 68°F, the greater the harm to salmon and steelhead. As we witnessed this summer, we had brutally hot waters, low salmon and steelhead returns, and some devastating fish kills. Snake River salmon and steelhead are teetering today on the precipice of extinction - and - according to scientists - restoring the lower Snake River is really our only opportunity for avoiding extinction and recovering abundance. If we work together and act quickly, we can seize this current window of opportunity to rebuild healthy fish populations and help feed struggling orcas, uphold our nation's promises to Native American Tribes, save taxpayers and energy consumer dollars; create thousands of jobs, and expand the Northwest's clean, reliable and affordable energy system.

This summer, each issue of the Hot Water Report explored related issues and urgently needed solutions and opportunities for Northwest communities, the economy, and the environment. Articles in this year's Report include a brief summary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report and predicted climate futures for the Northwest, how clean, non-dam alternative energy resources can benefit our climate and salmon, an in-depth look at Snake River Wild Salmon and Steelhead returns as of August, and a summary of the legal conflicts relating Snake River salmon and dams. Check out the reports from this and previous summers here: Hot Water Reports - compiled!

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to share our Hot Water Reports with your networks!

 5. Columbia-Snake steelhead returns will be among the worst on record - disappointing anglers; hurting businesses and communities.

The states of Oregon and Washington have recently implemented drastic emergency closures to steelhead trout fishing in the Columbia and Snake Rivers and their tributaries due to steep declines in the number of fish returning from the ocean to spawn. Washington State officials closed steelhead fishing from the mouth of the Snake River (near the Tri-Cities in south-central Washington) to the Idaho state line at Clarkston (WA). To the south, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) took emergency action in late August to restrict or close steelhead fishing in the lower Umatilla as well as the Deschutes, John Day, and Walla Walla rivers beginning September 1. The Umatilla and Walla Walla River actions prohibit keeping any steelhead, while all angling for steelhead is now prohibited on the John Day and Deschutes Rivers.

These reductions and prohibitions on steelhead fishing reflect the tragically low returns of fish so far in 2021. A recent joint memo from ODFW and WDFW stated that as “of September 12, the cumulative steelhead passage since July 1 at Bonneville Dam (50,516) (the first dam returning adult fish encounter on the lower Columbia River) is the lowest on record, and the cumulative unclipped steelhead passage (19,583) is the lowest since clipped/unclipped counting began in 1994.”

Despite the deeply troubling returns to date, fisheries managers are predicting that “it is likely that the total B-Index return will exceed the preseason forecast of 7,600 total fish.” (B-index or B-run steelhead are large, especially rare fish that have migrated to and spent time in the ocean on two different occasions. Given the extreme perils of the federal hydro-system today, few steelhead are able to do this. Protecting these special genetics is - or should be - a high conservation priority.) Hopefully, the managers are correct: that many more steelhead will return as the season advances and meet or exceed the exceedingly low preseason forecast. Only time will tell; we’ll make sure to keep you posted.

Meanwhile, closed seasons and dramatically reduced fishing opportunities are a huge disappointment for anglers who look forward all year to the opportunity to pursue this highly elusive fish in the fall and winter months. And this year it is also taking a huge economic toll on scores of already-struggling businesses and communities that support and serve these anglers across the Inland Northwest - in Washington, Idaho and Oregon. Fishing guides, gear retailers, hotels, restaurants, and other types of businesses are seeing a dramatic drop in demand - and income - caused by these fishing closures.

Healthy salmon and steelhead populations deliver many irreplaceable benefits to the people and ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest - including, of course, unique outdoor recreation activities that bring many millions of dollars each year to small rural communities across the region.

Read more about this year’s steelhead crisis here:

Field and Stream Magazine: Dismal runs force Washington and Oregon to close world famous steelhead fisheries (Sept 3)

KIVITV: Steelhead bag limit reduced to one; conservationists say change needs to happen now (Sept 5)

6. Recent, related press coverage from across the Northwest... 

These last couple of weeks we’ve seen some excellent articles and opinion pieces come out about the salmon recovery and the Snake River reflecting growing support for developing and delivering comprehensive solutions for the lower Snake River salmon, Southern Resident orcas, and Northwest Tribes and other communities. We include a number of these articles here...

1) Statesman-Journal Guest Opinion: To save the salmon, remove the dams by the retired chief of fisheries for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Jim Martin. Martin asks the question, “Are we able — are we willing — to take the bold, decisive actions required to stop extinction and initiate real recovery of fish that have been a part of Pacific Northwest landscapes dating back millions of years, fish that have been the lifeblood of native peoples throughout the vast Columbia River Basin since time immemorial?”

2) Register-Guard (OR) Guest Opinion: We can have our salmon and eat it, too. By Walt Pollock, former senior executive with Bonneville Power Administration. Mr. Pollock has decades of experience in salmon recovery from the energy/utility perspective, and understands that the Northwest region can both meet its clean, reliable and affordable energy priorities - without the the lower Snake River dams.

3) Idaho Statesman Guest Opinion: President Biden needs one voice to lead on Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson’s plan to save salmon. Tracy Andrus, the daughter of former Idaho Governor and Secretary of Interior Cecil Andrus forcefully and eloquently calls on the Biden Administration to get involved in helping the Pacific Northwest address the spiraling salmon crisis and seize the current window of opportunity.

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