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Restoring the Lower Snake River

neo 003641-01July 8, 2017

By Rocky Barker

Editor's note: Research, tenacious advocates and $16 billion have lifted Columbia salmon from the brink of extinction. But the Northwest has yet to figure out a sustainable plan to save the fish that provides spiritual sustenance, food for the table, and hundreds of millions in business and ecological benefits. Today, we start a special series of reports exploring whether salmon can ultimately survive.

The salmon of the Northwest are the stuff of legends.

Pioneers talked of rivers so thick that they were tempted to cross on the backs of the fish. When Meriwether Lewis led his band of explorers through the Northwest in 1805, he marveled in his journal of “almost inconceivable” numbers of salmon.

At one time, 8 million to 16 million Columbia and Snake river salmon rode spring flows from tributaries such as the cold, clear Salmon and Clearwater rivers to the ocean, living one to three years before making the daunting upstream trip to their native waters to spawn and die.

By 1995, that number had plunged to fewer than 1 million, and 13 species of Northwest salmon were placed on the Endangered Species List. Over the past quarter-century, research, tenacious advocates and $16 billion in federal investment have helped keep Northwest salmon from tipping over the brink into extinction. With bad ocean conditions this year, salmon returns are depressed again and fishing seasons are shortened.

Read the full story at the Idaho Statesman.

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