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. Sen. Murray & Gov. Inslee's final report and recommendations put us on a presumptive path to dam removal and salmon recovery
2. NGOs & Communities Call For Action: Modernize the 58-year-old Columbia River Treaty
3. 'Hot Water Report' publishes its final issue - Here's what you need to know
4. Northwest Artists Against Extinction: An interview with Erik Sandgren
5. YOU'RE INVITED! Upcoming Sept. and Oct. events
Over the past few weeks, the political and legal landscape around the fate of endangered salmon, steelhead and orcas and the embattled lower Snake River dams has been transformed. Leadership from Sen. Patty Murray, Gov. Jay Inslee and the Biden Administration has created unprecedented momentum for restoring a free-flowing lower Snake River. In this issue, we review what’s happened and where we go from here.
On Aug. 25, U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee took an historic step when they released their final Lower Snake River Dam Benefits Replacement Report, recommendations, and public statements outlining a way forward to protect and recover endangered Snake River salmon and steelhead populations and aid endangered, salmon-dependent Southern Resident orcas.
Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee announced key action items for the Snake River as a central element of a larger set of important priorities and next steps designed to protect and restore abundant populations of salmon and steelhead across the Columbia Basin and Pacific Northwest. Save Our wild Salmon welcomes and appreciates this very significant package and proposal from the governor and senator and we look forward to working with them and others in the region and in D.C. to advance them - with the great urgency that circumstances demand.
Their long-anticipated recommendations include this essential conclusion:
“The science is clear that – specific to the Lower Snake River – breach of the dams would provide the greatest benefit to the salmon. Salmon runs in the Lower Snake River are uniquely impacted by the dam structures relative other watersheds, and the waters of the lower Snake River have unique potential for robust aquatic ecosystem and species recovery.”
Other key themes and conclusions from Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee:
- The status quo is not working and must change. Changing economic, energy and climate conditions require leaders to plan for changing circumstances in the Columbia Basin region in the coming decades.
- Extinction is unacceptable. Saving salmon and other iconic species in the Columbia Basin is imperative. “Extinction of salmon, orca and other iconic species in the Pacific Northwest is categorically unacceptable…we will not permit Washington state to lose its salmon."
- Saving salmon requires a restored river. The federal government's recent scientific review affirms that breaching the LSR dams offers the greatest benefit to the salmon. “We must recognize that breaching the dams does in fact offer us the best chance at protecting endangered salmon and other iconic species that run through these waters."
While the senator and governor’s recent communications about breaching the dams were not as detailed as we had hoped, we are now nevertheless on a clear path to replace the services of the dams and to remove them to restore salmon. Murray and Inslee’s overall package includes essential commitments and next steps for state and federal governments working with Tribes and stakeholders to develop and implement a comprehensive regional solution to restore this historic river, protect and rebuild abundant salmon populations, uphold our nation’s promises to Tribes - and meet the needs of communities.
Released on Aug. 26, Sen. Murray’s and Gov. Inslee’s salmon recovery recommendations, and the accompanying report on replacing the services of the dams, followed by three weeks a landmark agreement between the Biden Administration and salmon and fishing advocates who are challenging a grossly inadequate Trump-era salmon plan in federal court. That agreement extended a pause in the litigation, originally agreed to last October, to allow additional time for settlement talks and actions to help imperiled fish. The plaintiffs – the Nez Perce Tribe, the State of Oregon, Earthjustice representing fishing and conservation groups – and the Biden Administration told the court that discussions to date had been productive and should be allowed to proceed by extending the pause to August 31, 2023. The Court swiftly approved the parties’ joint motion.
As part of the agreement, the Biden Administration made a series of commitments toward the following stated purpose:
“The Biden Administration is committed to supporting development of a durable long-term strategy to restore salmon and other native fish populations to healthy and abundant levels, honoring Federal commitments to Tribal Nations, delivering affordable and reliable clean power, and meeting the many resilience needs of stakeholders across the region.”
A number of detailed commitments under this overarching statement of purpose come with timelines and/or deadlines. The first - and critically important - of these is a promise to produce, by Sept. 30, a final version of a July draft study on the science of “Rebuilding Interior Columbia Basin Salmon and Steelhead”. That draft, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), concluded that, for endangered Snake River stocks, restoration of a free-flowing lower Snake River, via dam breaching, is “essential” to salmonid recovery. Plaintiffs, and other salmon and orca advocates, will be watching closely for any hint of retreat from this unequivocal scientific finding.
The Administration also promises, by Dec. 1, 2022, to produce “a schedule of Administration actions and critical milestones to meet the Administration’s principles and commitments described herein.” While the Murray/Inslee recommendations did not include a schedule of “actions and critical milestones,” these are more appropriately identified by the Biden Administration and the relevant federal agencies. We will be encouraging the senator and the governor (and other policymakers) to work closely with the Administration to make sure Congress provides any funding or authorization that is necessary to implement the actions and timelines to replace the services of the Snake River dams so the river can be restored as quickly as possible.
Dec. 1, 2022 is a doubly significant day, as by that date, the Biden Administration has also promised “…to identify those short-term funding, operational, and other actions that can be implemented in 2023 based on actual and projected funding available from sources across the federal Departments and Agencies.”
Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee also recognize the opportunity to use existing appropriations to move quickly on developing replacements for the services the lower Snake dams now provide, with their call to, “Leverage the historic investments made in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act to support energy replacement, infrastructure enhancement, and salmon recovery and habitat restoration”.
The Northwest states, especially Washington, and the Biden Administration will need to effectively, and urgently, coordinate their work on this front, to start translating goals into actions - on the ground and in the river.
More broadly, the motion from the parties involved in the litigation to the Court noted that, “The United States also secured the services of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS; www.fmcs.gov) to facilitate meaningful engagement on comprehensive solutions by the United States, Tribes, States, and Stakeholders.” This promised engagement, involving plaintiffs, defendants and other stakeholders, broadens what were previously litigation “settlement” talks to include parties who are not part of the litigation, but will be key to developing and implementing long-term solutions.
This is good news if, and only if, all participants engage in good-faith, solution-oriented conversations. Any attempt to use this process as a delaying tactic, or to re-argue settled questions, must be quashed by both FMCS and the Biden Administration or the plaintiffs will be forced to return to court to fight for the health of the river, its endangered fish and the irreplaceable benefits they bring to the Northwest and nation.
The forward-leaning leadership for salmon and orca recovery, justice for Northwest Tribes and investment in a prosperous and sustainable regional future by the Biden Administration and top regional elected officials is an historic opportunity. But a forward lean must become urgent movement and action if we’re not to waste the current opportunity.
Our way forward – to plan and implement (i) the replacement of services and (ii) removal of the lower Snake River dams – will require significant collaborative planning, policy, advocacy, and state and federal investments. With salmon and steelhead populations and the Southern Resident orcas struggling for survival today, immediate and sustained action is essential. The crucial role of advocates remains to:
- Continue to build momentum and public demand for urgent action
- Deepen and expand political leadership – and
- Hold our elected officials - regionally and nationally - accountable to their commitments to act to protect salmon and orca from extinction and restore abundance.
As a result of the above developments, we're now entering a critical new phase of work. The report, statements and recommendations by Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee, along with the recent commitments by the Biden Administration as part of the continued litigation stay, have put the Northwest on a presumptive path to breaching the four lower Snake River Dams. After years of pushing to protect and restore the Snake River and its fish, there is now a way forward that we must push on – urgently, strategically and effectively. Importantly, the Murray/Inslee recommendations also solidify Washington State's necessary leadership role moving forward, including the opportunity to strengthen its partnership with Gov. Kate Brown and the State of Oregon.
We would not be here today without your passionate and sustained support, advocacy, agitation and collaboration – supporting the visionary leadership of the Tribes, engaging diverse communities and constituencies, reshaping the politics and demanding leadership and real and lasting solutions from our elected officials.
Salmon, orca, clean energy and fishing advocates have hard work ahead in order to realize this opportunity: to support the Tribes and work with Northwest states, members of Congress and the Biden Administration to secure the necessary funding and replace the dams' services as quickly as possible. Plenty of interests will throw up roadblocks if they can. Meanwhile, important work by the Nez Perce Tribe, State of Oregon and conservation/fishing plaintiffs continues - to reach a settlement with the Biden Administration over the next twelve months that will restore the river and salmon and meet other regional needs. While we will need direct congressional authorization and funding, our work and way forward is clear – and with your continued partnership, we will begin to check items off the list. Salmon and orca - and our nation’s responsibility to uphold its promises with Tribes - demand it.
Thank you for your amazing support and advocacy to bring us to this critical milestone. Onward from here together!
Read more here:
- New York Times: Breaching Dams ‘Must Be an Option’ to Save Salmon, Washington Democrats Say (August 31)
- KREM: A report produced by Gov. Jay Inslee and Senator Patty Murray recommends replacing the benefits of the lower snake river dams to make breaching them possible. (August 29)
- KING5: Inslee, Murray recommend taking action to make breaching the Snake River dams a ‘viable option’. (August 25)
- Seattle Times: New deal to extend truce in court battle over Columbia River salmon (August 5)
- Final Lower Snake River Dam Benefits Replacement Report
- Senator Murray / Governor Inslee recommendations
- Gov. Jay Inslee press release
- Sen. Patty Murray press release
- Gov. Kate Brown (OR) statement
- Yakama Nation press release
- Conservation and fishing advocates press release
On Sept. 14, 32 Northwest and national conservation, clean energy, faith, fishing, and civic organizations sent a letter to the U.S. State Department, BPA, and Army Corps of Engineers urging them to better inform Northwest people on the status of talks now under way to update the 1964 U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty, and to involve residents and Tribes in decisions about its future.
And we ask you to send your own letter to the Biden Administration and Congress - urging them to move quickly in their negotiations with Canada to update - or ‘modernize’ - the Treaty by adding Ecosystem Function – the health of the river - as a new third purpose. The original treaty is old and out-of-date – it was adopted in the middle of the last century. To this day, it has just two purposes: power production and flood control. The Treaty today offers no consideration for health of the river, its fish and wildlife populations and the communities that rely upon them. This must change in the talks now under way.
A comprehensive vision for Ecosystem Function in a modernized Treaty was developed by the Columbia Basin Tribes and it’s essential that they as sovereigns are included as full partners in Treaty negotiations, governance, and implementation. The public also have a strong role to play - now and in the future. Please raise your voice by sending a letter to decision makers now!
Negotiations between the U.S. and Canada have now been underway for four years. While the talks are confidential, Canada, to its credit, has maintained robust communication with its residents and is working in partnership with Indigenous nations. The U.S. Negotiating Team, on the other hand, has not held a public meeting in nearly three years and provides infrequent and minimal written updates.
Though not well-recognized, the Treaty plays a very significant role in shaping river flows across the border as more than a third of the Columbia’ River's water originates in the province of British Columbia, including from some of its coldest, most climate-resilient sources. And if a new agreement is not reached by Sept. 2024, the long-standing responsibility for flood management will shift from Canada and its reservoirs to American ones. Without proper planning, this could sow chaos for the basin’s multiple, rather precariously balanced priorities (fish and wildlife, irrigation, power production, etc). Many conservation and community advocates worry that this could lead federal agencies to further de-prioritize fish and wildlife to make up for inadequate flood risk planning.
Under the pressures of a changing climate, modernizing the Treaty and prioritizing Ecosystem Function is essential to the broader transformation we need to uphold our nation's promises to Tribes, sustain vibrant communities and resilient ecosystems into the future.
In partnership with the U.S. NGO Treaty Caucus, SOS is hosting a webinar on the evening of Oct. 4. Register here to learn more about these issues and ways to get involved.
Until then, learn more here at ColumbiaRiverTreaty.org
Read more here:
The Capital Press: Environmental groups urge update of Columbia River Treaty (Sept. 19)
This summer, the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition completed our 7th 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 year, we experienced another summer of hot water temperatures in the lower Snake River. From mid-July to September, all four lower Snake River’s reservoirs had waters above the 68°F “harm threshold” for adult and juvenile fish. Salmon and steelhead begin to suffer harmful effects when water temperatures exceed 68°F, including: migration disruption, increased metabolism, increased susceptibility to disease, reduced reproductive potential (by reducing egg viability), suffocation (warm water carries less oxygen), and in the worst case - death.
On August 19, 2022, the reservoir behind the Ice Harbor Dam registered the highest temperature we have seen this summer at 72.32°F– over 4 degrees higher than the temperatures that coldwater fish require.
Restoring a freely-flowing lower Snake River by removing its four federal dams is our only option to address high water temperatures and their harmful impacts on wild salmon and steelhead.
Throughout this summer's Hot Water Report, we identified key solutions and strategies to salmon recovery - including, of course, restoring the lower Snake River and to protect, restore, and reconnect the freshwater habitats that salmon and steelhead depend upon. View each report here: HOT WATER REPORT– COMPILED.
Hot Water Report 2022 is a joint project of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition, Columbia Riverkeeper, American Rivers, Endangered Species Coalition, Environment Washington, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United, Idaho Wildlife Federation, National Resource Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Sierra Club, Snake River Waterkeeper, Spokane Riverkeeper, Wild Orca, and Wild Steelhead Coalition.
Early this year, Save Our wild Salmon launched an exciting project and partnership: Northwest Artists Against Extinction. NWAAE is a creative collaboration between artists and advocates who value healthy rivers and salmon abundance. It has been our great honor to work with an amazing set of regional artists. And this project has helped to inspire and engage new people in new ways to help to advance this historic campaign to restore the Snake River and its imperiled fish.
We have a new addition to our monthly newsletter - we’ll feature interviews and artwork from NWAAE artists! This month, we’re excited to feature Erik Sandgren, an artist against extinction whose work has long focused on the lands, waters and peoples of the Pacific Northwest. The mountains, skies, waters, trees, and the people of the region have provided inspiration for his works which resonate with themes of location, memory, and myth.
In this interview, Erik shares his thoughts about his work and how it demonstrates the intersectionality of place and ecological issues with Jeanne Dodds, NWAAE Engagement Coordinator.
Jeanne Dodds: Your work is informed by the Northwest sense of place identity, and the myths and stories that have informed the visual arts culture of the region. Can you talk a bit about ways that this regional identity shows up in your work?
Erik Sandgren: I grew up here in the Pacific Northwest and returned to it as a mature painter in 1989. There is a particular flavor to the way humans have interacted with this landscape over millennia. The anadromous fish are a big and exciting part of that changing reality.
JD: You work in a range of media, from oils to woodblock prints. Can you tell us more about the range of materials you use to produce your imagery, and why you choose certain media to represent a given subject?
ES: I feel the material of the woodcut, cut as it is by steel, to be particularly appropriate to the subject - roughly analogous to the steel of hook , gaff and net ring securing the flesh of the fish. My woodcuts of the last years though, mostly start as paintings to work out the big compositional patterns of that more rigid medium. Whatever the medium I’m trying for some life-like sense of the rhythm and flow of the pictorial space.
This month, we have events spanning the Northwest in a continued effort to advocate and build momentum for a restored Snake River and Columbia Basin. Check out the details below to find an event near you and visit our Events page to stay up to date on events you can participate in!
Sept. 22, 7pm | Seattle, WA
The Salmon Way: A Multimedia Journey with Photographer/Author Amy Gulick about the State of Salmon
Join us for a FREE, inspiring presentation and book-signing with Amy Gulick, photographer and author of the award-winning book, The Salmon Way: An Alaska State of Mind. With engaging stories and stunning images, Amy will take us to Alaska to explore the remarkable ways of life that wild salmon make possible for people. SOS’ very own executive director, Joseph Bogaard, will reflect on the latest developments in our region’s once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore wild salmon and ways of life in the Snake River of the Columbia Basin.
For more information on Amy Gulick’s inspiring book, The Salmon Way, visit amygulick.com.
If you plan to attend, please RSVP here.
Participating organizations: Braided River, Save our Wild Salmon Coalition, and Patagonia.
Sept. 24, 11-4pm | Lewiston, ID
Youth Salmon Celebration and Call to Action
We hope you will be able to join us September 24th at Hells Gate State Park in Lewiston, ID to celebrate and honor youth voices, Tribal justice, and Snake River salmon! The celebration will bring together community members, Tribal Leaders and youth, and youth organizers from across the region to present, share stories, celebrate, and take action to restore salmon in the Snake River Basin. For more information, please visit the event registration page. To share this event, please visit our Facebook event page.
Event Co-Hosted by: Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, CTUIR Youth Leadership Council, Youth Salmon Protectors, and Save Our wild Salmon.
Join SOS and partners in the U.S. NGO Treaty Caucus for an interactive webinar on October 4th 6:30 PT* via zoom, exploring where things stand for this crucial issue and what U.S. government needs to get done to ensure a positive future.
A range of speakers from Northwest NGOs and tribes will present and answer audience questions.
Contact: For more information email Joseph Bogaard, firstname.lastname@example.org
Participating organizations: Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power & Light, Sierra Club, and Save Our wild Salmon
*We acknowledge that this gathering conflicts with Yom Kippur and wish well those observing this sacred day. A recording will be available for delayed participation.
September 27th and 28th | Virtual Conference with two morning sessions One River, Ethics Matter Conference
The 9th annual OREM conference focuses on restoring Spokane River Salmon — righting historic wrongs, advancing stewardship, and examining the role of tribes who increasingly give voice to the voiceless: salmon, rivers, and future generations.
Register for this free conference here and help and spread the word in your networks!
Indigenous hosts: The Spokane Tribe of Indians and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe with support from the Upper Columbia United Tribes
Academic host: Eastern Washington University - Small Urban Rural & Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM)
Supported by: Sierra Club and the Columbia Institute for Water Policy
With six pubs located across western Washington State, Flatstick Pub provides a unique experience with local beer, miniature golf, and a plethora of additional games.
For the month of August, Flatstick Pub in Kirkland, WA selected SOS as their NGO/community partner.
Thank you to Flatstick Pub and all our supporters, who donated to support our work to protect and restore wild salmon and steelhead, and healthy rivers!
We're incredibly proud and grateful to have partnered with Flatstick Pub! Visit Flatstick Pub to enjoy delicious craft beer, play a couple of rounds of mini golf, and support other nonprofits and community partners each Sunday! Follow Flatstick Pub on social media to stay up to date on their weekly events: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Salmon have been migrating through the news recently. Here are a few breaking stories from the last few weeks about the urgency and opportunity today for the Snake River and PNW salmon:
- New York Times: Breaching Dams ‘Must Be an Option’ to Save Salmon, Washington Democrats Say (Aug. 31)
- OPB: Benefits of Snake River dams must be replaced before breaching to save salmon, report says (Aug. 25)
- KREM: A report produced by Gov. Jay Inslee and Senator Patty Murray recommends replacing the benefits of the lower snake river dams to make breaching them possible. (Aug. 29)
- KING5: Inslee, Murray recommend taking action to make breaching the Snake River dams a ‘viable option’. (Aug. 25)
- Associated Press: Report: Benefits of dams must be replaced before breaching. (Aug. 25)
- Seattle Times: Inslee, Murray say Snake River dam removal is possible, but not yet. (Aug. 25)
- Spokesman-Review: Snake River spring Chinook struggling like never before, feds decide against classifying them as ‘endangered’ (Aug. 25)