FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 31, 2023
Joseph Bogaard, email@example.com, 206-300-1003
Tanya Riordan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 509-990-9777
Save Our wild Salmon Coalition statement re: 8/31 decision to extend FCRPS BiOp litigation pause to allow additional time for settlement talks re: the federal hydro-system and Columbia/Snake River salmon recovery:
Today, parties to the long-running legal battle over the Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion (FCRPS BiOp) announced an extension of the litigation pause to allow additional time for settlement discussions. The litigation was first paused in October 2021. It was then extended in July 2022 through August 31, 2023 (today). Now the plaintiffs (Nez Perce Tribe, State of Oregon and conservation and fishing NGOs led by Earthjustice) and defendant (Biden Administration) have announced an additional extension for 60 days.
Save Our wild Salmon appreciates the significant commitment of time and resources by the Biden Administration, and Northwest sovereigns and stakeholders over the past 22 months in an effort to develop a comprehensive regional solution that finally protects and recovers abundant, harvestable salmon and steelhead populations in Columbia/Snake River Basin.
Restoring healthy, fishable wild salmon and steelhead populations and the irreplaceable benefits they bring to communities, other fish and wildlife species including endangered Southern Resident orcas, and freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems is critical for maintaining and strengthening our region’s economy, culture and ecosystems. Salmon recovery is also essential for upholding our nation’s 150-year old Treaty commitments to Northwest Tribes.
The Save Our wild Salmon Coalition has not been a party to this litigation nor have we participated in the litigants’ discussions. Developing and delivering a comprehensive regional solution for endangered fish populations and regional communities and economies represents both a necessity and an opportunity for the people, lands and waters of the Northwest and nation.
Our coalition of conservation and fishing advocates believes that a durable solution must right historic wrongs and restore healthy, self-sustaining fish populations across the Columbia Basin. It should, for example, re-establish passage and reintroduce salmon in blocked areas, including above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams in the Upper Columbia River; protection, restoration and reconnection of degraded mainstem and tributary habitat; and removal of the four lower Snake River dams.
In addition to federal action and investments to restore the lower Snake River, a comprehensive plan must support ongoing Washington State efforts to plan and replace the limited services provided by these four dams. We can effectively modernize our energy, transportation, and irrigation infrastructure as we also work to stop the extinction of Snake River salmon and steelhead.
Restoring a freely flowing lower Snake River is not only essential for protecting its imperiled anadromous fish populations. It also represents one of our nation’s very best salmon recovery opportunities today. Lower Snake River dam removal will restore 140 miles of mainstem river habitat in southeast Washington State and re-establish productive access for endangered fish to more than 5,500 miles of pristine, protected, high elevation upstream habitat in northeast Oregon, central Idaho and southeast Washington State. It will significantly increase survival of salmon and steelhead in the Snake River Basin by, for example, reducing water temperatures, dam powerhouse encounters, disease, reservoir predation, energy expenditure and out-migration travel time.
Steep declines in these wild fish populations are harming communities and businesses across the Northwest. Dozens of populations and sub-populations of salmon and steelhead have already been driven to extinction. Many populations that remain return at less than 5 percent their historic levels. In 2023 and in countless other years, record or near-record low fish returns to the Columbia River and its tributaries have caused Tribal, recreational and commercial fisheries to be severely constrained and/or cancelled.
We appreciate the focused efforts recently to develop a lawful plan to restore salmon abundance in the Columbia and Snake rivers, but must emphasize that many populations, including all stocks remaining in the Snake River Basin – sockeye, spring/summer and fall chinook, and steelhead - face certain extinction without urgent, meaningful, science-based recovery actions. Salmon and steelhead – and the orcas and other fish and wildlife that depend upon them – are simply running out of time.