September 7, 2018
Sam Mace, Save Our wild Salmon Coalition, Spokane WA, 509-863-5696
Statement from Sam Mace, Inland Northwest Project Director, Save Our wild Salmon: “Salmon, fishing and orca advocates across Washington State and the Northwest breathed a big collective sigh of relief upon learning that the ‘Salmon Extinction Rider’ (Section 506*) championed by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers has been removed from the final 2018 Energy and Water Resources Appropriations Bill.
"Conservationists and fishing advocates are very grateful to Senator Murray for her strong leadership and to others in the Northwest Congressional delegation for protecting from political interference the integrity of science and ongoing legal processes affecting Columbia Basin salmon recovery. Their unwavering opposition to this damaging rider during this Congressional session has been critical for protecting wild salmon and the irreplaceable benefits they deliver to our state and regional economy, culture and environment. This summer's heartbreaking display of grief by Tahlequah, the orca mother with her lifeless calf, underscores exactly what's at stake if we fail to protect and rebuild our salmon populations in the Columbia Basin and across the region.
“If it had become law, this legislative rider would have weakened protections for Columbia Basin’s endangered wild salmon and steelhead populations and harmed the communities and fish and wildlife populations that value and rely upon them. The Committee Report language concerning Columbia Basin salmon that ultimately accompanied this spending bill is disappointing and wrong-headed. Fortunately, however, it should have no effect on federal laws, ongoing court proceedings or current salmon restoration activities in the Columbia and Snake rivers."
Background: Dubbed the ‘Salmon Extinction Rider’ by conservationists, Section 506 had been championed by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The one-sentence legislative rider would have had the effect of rolling back ‘spill’ at the eight federal dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers. Spill has been collaboratively studied by tribal, federal and state fisheries biologists and managers for more than two decades. Salmon scientists in the Pacific Northwest strongly support increased levels of spill (water sent over dams rather than through spinning turbines) up to 125% total dissolved gas in order to help juvenile salmon migrate more quickly and safely to the Pacific Ocean. ‘Spilled’ salmon go through powerhouses far less frequently, survive the journey through the federal dams and reservoirs in higher numbers and – most importantly – return as adult salmon at higher levels.
Increased levels of spill are viewed by scientists and salmon and fishing advocates as an essential interim measure to improve salmon survival while the region develops a more effective, long-term plan that must include the removal of the four lower Snake River dams.
*SEC. 506. None of the funds made available in this Act, or federal funds provided from any other source, may be used to operate the Federal Columbia River Power System hydroelectric dams in a manner that is inconsistent with the Army Corps of Engineers’ 2017 Fish Operations Plan.