On behalf of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition's (SOS) board and staff, "THANK YOU!" for your incredible assistance and support this year to protect and restore wild salmon and steelhead, the rivers they need, and the benefits they deliver to people, wildlife and ecosystems. SOS is leveraging linked crises today to move people, politics and policy to deliver durable, lawful, science-based solutions to meet the needs of wild salmon, Southern Resident orca, and Northwest communities. With your help, SOS covered a lot of ground this year and we’re geared up for new progress in 2019.
This year-end update summarizes our recent achievements, the landscape today, and what we expect in the new year. We deeply appreciate your interest, activism and generous support. We can't do it without you! Our successes to date would not have occurred without our partnership with you and many others. Thank you!
Please support our continued progress in 2019 with a generous, fully tax-deductible gift before December 31st, 2018. DONATE HERE.
Thank you. Read on to learn more. Contact us with questions.
THE YEAR OF THE ORCA - 2018 OVERVIEW: The heart-breaking plight of starving Southern Resident orcas was the Northwest’s top natural resource story this year. SOS’ leadership and advocacy in the last 3-4 years helped usher and frame this story – with Columbia Basin salmon and lower Snake River dam removal as a central focus. Our coordinated coalition work to protect and restore endangered salmon – and the Southern Resident orcas that rely upon them - will deepen in 2019 – to educate and mobilize the public, expand political leadership, and secure new policy gains. The very real threat of orca extinction – just 74 whales survive today – add a particularly poignant, urgent reason to remove the costly lower Snake dams and restore productive access by wild salmon and steelhead to the immense, protected, high quality watershed upstream from them.
In 2019, we will advance a two-pronged strategy to secure new regional support for dam removal by both blocking and exposing the efforts of those who would maintain a failed status quo and working with regional interests (including those with whom we may disagree) to build a new alternative path forward that restores salmon, protects orca and benefits communities. We will increase pressure on an unsustainable and unacceptable status quo (incl. looming extinction, escalating costs, illegal plans, uncertainty, BPA’s financial distress, and more) as we simultaneously work with partners, affected communities and policymakers to demonstrate the many ecological and community benefits that increased spill and a restored lower Snake River and wild salmon and steelhead will deliver.
2018 HIGHLIGHTS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS: SOS’ coordinated organizing, communications (see our '2018 Top Ten' press links listed below), policy and legal work is shifting and leveraging Northwest policies to help at-risk salmon and orca - and struggling communities.
Despite a Republican-controlled Congress, SOS and our coalition members successfully blocked Rep. McMorris Rodgers’ anti-salmon legislation and ‘anti-spill’ rider. Senator Murray’s (WA) leadership in this fight was bolstered by Northwest House and Senate Democrats and Governors Brown (OR) and Inslee (WA). Our successful ‘salmon defense’ in 2018 is significant in terms of policy and politics; it reflects weakened support for McMorris’ divisive approach and a growing openness by regional policymakers to new approaches to protecting salmon based on law, science and economics. As the heartbreaking narrative around orca and their urgent need for more salmon sinks in, we'll continue our work to build public demand for political leadership and real solutions.
The midterm elections have created new opportunity too – we’ll play less defense and more offense in 2019. Oregon and Washington’s legislatures will be Democrat-controlled for at least the next two years. Governor Kate Brown of Oregon was easily re-elected. Governor Jay Inslee is mid-way through his second term. Though still a red state, Idaho now looks considerably more salmon-friendly: Representative Simpson was re-elected; Representative Labrador is gone; and moderate Brad Little replaces an entrenched Butch Otter as governor. This new landscape creates the potential for bi-partisan collaboration to aid endangered fish and rivers – but it will require smart, relentless, coordinated work by salmon advocates in order to realize.
SOS’ hard work helped secure two key recommendations among the 36 delivered by the Orca Task Force to Governor Inslee in November. These include (i) increased ‘spill’ at dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers starting next spring and (ii) convening a Tribal/stakeholder forum to develop key elements of a Snake River dam removal community transition plan by the end of 2019. These recommendations resulted from our coordinated work with allies – mobilizing our troops, informing media coverage, and educating Task Force members and much more. The Task Force’s two Columbia-Snake recommendations are critical to the survival and recovery of both salmon and orca. These successes drive and inform our work in 2019. Notably, both recommendations face opposition by the usual suspects and require strategic, coordinated work by SOS and allies to ensure Governor Inslee moves them forward – with the other recommendations – with commitment and urgency.
More spill at Snake/Columbia dams: In partnership with the Nez Perce Tribe and State of Oregon (partnerships for which we are very grateful), SOS and its salmon-advocate allies secured a new court order in January (an order upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals when challenged by the federal agencies!) to increase spill to the maximum levels currently allowed by state law. This new spill helped improve the survival of juvenile Snake and Columbia river salmon as they migrated to the ocean last spring, and will increase adult returns in the years ahead.
Our efforts to further increase spill to benefit salmon and orca continue. As SOS and allies push the Task Force, we are simultaneously pressing state agencies in Oregon and Washington State to modify their water quality rules in order to allow for more spill. And, in an 11th hour effort to avoid a new round of litigation, regional sovereigns (agencies and tribes) are exploring ways to increase spill ‘flexibly’ – to further help to salmon while minimizing harm to BPA’s bottom line. Regardless of how these conversations turn out, we’ll continue to push new help for salmon in the near-term (more spill) and in the long-term (a restored lower Snake).
SOS is building new support to restore the lower Snake River and its endangered salmon populations by developing and distributing new information and engaging regional stakeholders. SOS worked closely with NW Energy Coalition and other allies to develop and release its 2018 Lower Snake River Dam Power Replacement Study. This groundbreaking report shows how the dams’ power services can be feasibly and affordably replaced with no new emissions. The analysis is reshaping people’s views and advancing dialogue with 'the other side’. We expect new analyses in 2019 to shed further light on the dams’ true costs and benefits and opportunities to replace their services with cleaner, salmon-friendly alternatives. Information like the power replacement study will also help hold federal agencies accountable in the current court-ordered NEPA review as it informs policymakers and stakeholders.
SOS’ involvement in important regional conversations exploring new approaches and replacement of the lower Snake River dams’ modest services will expand in the year ahead. We’re committed to working with Northwest Tribes and stakeholders – including fishers, farmers, shippers and power utilities to listen, share concerns, and explore real and lasting solutions for salmon and orca, regional energy consumers and national taxpayers. SOS will continue to encourage and participate in these types of discussions in 2019. In the Inland Northwest and in partnership with Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment and other allies, Sam is working with universities, community groups, and planners to help envision the opportunities and benefits that a free-flowing lower Snake River can deliver.
SOS Priorities in 2019 – in brief: Our successes in 2018 will drive our priorities in 2019. We’ll continue to lead strategic planning and close coordinated work with partners and allies to educate and mobilize the public, generate and inform media coverage, produce and leverage new analyses, and engage and move stakeholders and policymakers.
We’re planning a number of public events, including a speaker series, regional screenings of two new excellent soon-to-be-released films; and we’ll co-host our 5th Annual (and biggest yet) Flotilla to Free the Snake! Processes we’ll impact in 2019: implementation of Orca Task Force’s recommendations, responding to the federal government’s 2018 Columbia Basin Salmon Plan (due in Dec. 2018), and the ongoing court-ordered NEPA environmental review, and much more.
Thank you for all you do – please generously support our work in 2019, and don’t hesitate to reach out directly.
– Joseph and Sam