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 Martha Campos.
1. Washington State Legislature is considering important actions this year to protect and recover imperiled Snake River fish
2. Tribes approve new resolution calling for action to protect and recover salmon abundance, including removal of the lower Snake River dams
3. You’re invited to ‘Our Sacred Obligation’ virtual screening and discussion on Feb. 23rd!
4. EPA stops Pebble Mine project, a huge win for Bristol Bay salmon!
5. Save the date! Honor: People and Salmon exhibit opening March 6th
6. Celebrate Black History Month!
7. Snake River and salmon media roundup
Last August, Washington State's Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee concluded in their in-depth analysis determining that we can replace the energy, transportation, and irrigation services these four dams provide and that we must do so urgently, because the extinction of Snake River salmon would be unacceptable.
Public support for urgent action is strong — and the science backs it up. Last month, the American Fisheries Society (AFS) released a new statement with an essential finding:
“When the body of scientific evidence is considered [...], it is clear that breaching the four lower Snake River dams is necessary to (1) substantially improve the probability of recovering these cultural and ecological keystone species to healthy and harvestable populations and (2) safeguard those fishes from extinction.”
Similarly, last fall, the Biden Administration's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report identified dam removal as an urgently needed “centerpiece action” for salmon and steelhead protection and restoration.
Supported by these findings, Northwest policymakers and the Biden Administration made significant commitments last year to develop a long-term strategy to restore salmon and other culturally significant native fish populations to abundant levels.
Now, in the Washington State Legislature, Gov. Inslee is following through on commitments made in the final Lower Snake River Benefits Replacement Report and associated Recommendations to move forward on immediate next steps Washington State can and should take to transition lower Snake River dam services.
Back in December, Gov. Inslee proposed two important budget items — to analyze and plan for replacing the energy and transportation services of the four lower Snake River dams. These measures are an important and urgent part of the transition process to ensure a clean, reliable and affordable energy and transportation future for all Washingtonians.
I. ENERGY: The Northwest has a remarkable opportunity right now to achieve an historic energy transformation to address climate change, endangered salmon, clean energy, Tribal justice and support resilient communities.
The four lower Snake River dams provide limited, replaceable energy services, producing about 925 average megawatts of electricity each year, making up about 4% of the region’s power generation. They produce power largely from March to June. New clean energy resources can replace and improve on these energy services, providing more output in summer and winter, when power is actually needed, resulting in improved year-round reliability. The dams' energy services can be replaced with a diverse set of clean energy technologies that will perform better and are rapidly declining in cost.
Gov. Inslee’s budget request for an energy transition planning recognizes that replacing the dams' energy services is part of a larger clean energy transition that is occurring now and must continue in Washington and across the Pacific Northwest. No energy system is designed to last forever; the four lower Snake River dams are aging and will require many hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades in the coming decade in order to continue operating.
For Snake River salmon and steelhead to recover to healthy levels and be resilient to climate change, they need a free-flowing lower Snake River as quickly as possible. With effective planning, the power benefits of the four lower Snake River dams can be replaced with affordable, non-carbon emitting, reliable alternatives. The Northwest has accomplished these types of transitions before and - working together - we can do it again. See here for more detailed information from NW Energy Coalition.
II. TRANSPORTATION: Freight transportation on the lower Snake River has been declining for the past twenty years - from 1,233 loaded barges in 1994 to 314 loaded barges in 2018, a decline of 75%. Gov. Inslee’s budget request for a Transportation Study is an important step to plan for replacing services consistent with Washington’s overall commitments to fight climate change and meets the needs of the agriculture, shipping and other communities along the lower Snake River in southeast Washington State.
III. IRRIGATION: Washington State Senate and House members are also sponsoring budget requests for an Irrigation Analysis. There are approximately 53,000 acres of irrigated farmland supported by waters drawn from the lower Snake River. 98% of this irrigation water is pumped from the reservoir behind Ice Harbor Dam; 9 corporate land owners irrigate 92% of that land. The land owners and agricultural producers will require modifications to their irrigation infrastructure when lower Snake River is restored. An Irrigation Analysis is an important step now to ensure continued water availability and infrastructure needs for reliable irrigation and ongoing agricultural production.
Save Our wild Salmon Coalition and its partner organizations are working hard to ensure Washington State Legislature fully funds these critical actions in 2023— to recover endangered Snake River salmon and steelhead, invest in transportation, agriculture, and clean energy infrastructure, address decades-long salmon recovery litigation, honor our nation's promises to Tribal Nations, feed hungry orcas, and enhance economic opportunities in every corner of our state – farmers and anglers, Tribes, and local communities. We will keep you posted on our progress - and ask for your help - as the legislative session proceeds!
Last month, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) held their winter conference in Portland, OR. As part of the three-day meeting, ATNI discussed and approved a new, updated resolution concerning the critical importance of salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest, including in the Snake River Basin, for Indigenous communities, economies, and ways of life.
Resolution #2023-14 is titled: Supporting and thanking all the leaders who have heard the voices of the ATNI Tribes, especially the Biden-Harris Administration, Senators Cantwell and Murray, Governor Inslee, Congressman Simpson, Former Oregon Governor Brown, and Congressman Blumenauer, for steps they are taking toward salmon and river restoration in the Pacific Northwest, and toward long-ignored Tribal justice for our peoples and homelands. This resolution updates and refers to two previous resolutions – approved in 2021 and 2022 – that address similar topics and concerns. ATNI is a regional organization of 57 American Indian and Alaska Natives Tribes whose traditional homelands today can be found in Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Western Montana, Southwest Alaska, Nevada, and Northern California.
Below are several excerpts; you can read and/or download the full resolution here.
WHEREAS, the health, safety, welfare, education, economic and employment opportunity, and preservation of cultural and natural resources are primary goals and objectives of ATNI; and
WHEREAS, ATNI, through Resolution #2021-23 adopted at the 2021 ATNI Virtual Mid-Year Convention, emphasized real and imminent salmon and climate crises, and long-ignored tribal justice crises facing the Pacific Northwest, and called on the President of the United States (POTUS) and the 117th Congress to seize this historic opportunity and chart a stronger, better future for the Northwest and bring long-ignored tribal justice to our peoples and homelands,…
WHEREAS, the Administration on August 4, 2022, filed “United States Commitments” in the Oregon Federal District Court hydro-system litigation, with the Guiding Principles that:
“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. The Administration recognizes that business as usual will not achieve the goals of restoring salmon populations and ecosystem functions;” and
WHEREAS, on August 25, 2022, U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee released the final “Lower Snake River Dams: Benefit Replacement Report” following engagement with Basin Tribes which builds on Congressman Mike Simpson’s Columbia Basin Initiative, which concludes that “the services provided by the LSRD could be replaced, or even improved upon, and where they cannot be replaced or improved, mitigation and compensation could be provided;” and
WHEREAS, in conjunction with the release of this Report, Senator Murray and Governor Inslee emphasized that “status quo is not a responsible option”;
WHEREAS, Governor Inslee emphasized that “The state and federal governments should implement a plan to replace the benefits of the Lower Snake River Dams to enable breaching to move forward”; and
WHEREAS, Senator Murray emphasized that “[w]e cannot under any circumstances allow the extinction of salmon to come to pass” and that “ [j]ustice for the Tribes of the Pacific Northwest must be at the forefront of the environmental and economic agenda as we work toward salmon recovery—this will require an ongoing commitment and consistent consultation as regional investments are made”; and…
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that ATNI supports and thanks all the leaders who have heard the voices of the ATNI tribes, and…for their public acknowledgements, efforts and current actions in moving the Northwest towards the bold actions that will be needed for salmon and river restoration in the Columbia Basin: to support salmon, steelhead, lamprey, and native fish, within their complete ecosystems – from the orca in the ocean and Puget Sound to the nutrients salmon supply to the furthest inland streams – and to support the Northwest Indian people who have lived with these species in mutual dependence since time immemorial; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that ATNI Tribes call for continued support and action from the Biden-Harris and subsequent Administrations and Congress to ensure that the bold actions needed for salmon and river restoration in the Columbia Basin are taken; …
From the Elwha River to the Klamath, this powerful moment in history is only possible because of Indigenous leadership to restore life-sustaining salmon to abundance. Join Children of the Setting Sun Productions and partners for a virtual screening of their latest production, Our Sacred Obligation, followed by a panel discussion with Q&A.
Speakers and paneliests include:
- Frances Charles, Chairwoman, Elwha Klallam Tribe
- Amy Cordalis, Principal, Ridges to Riffles Indigenous Conservation Group
- Darrell Hillaire, Executive Director, Children of the Setting Sun Productions.
Our Sacred Obligation is a 26-minute film by Children of the Setting Sun Productions that spotlights the ancient and now-threatened relationship between the Yurok Tribe and salmon in the Klamath River. It recounts the history of the Yurok Tribe’s struggle against the colonization of the Klamath River, which has sustained them since time immemorial. A land reclamation project and a series of dams have brought the Klamath River salmon populations to the brink of extinction. But the Yurok are fighting back. Propped up by their ancestors, and the recent success of the Klallam Tribe on the Elwha River, the Yurok are using their sovereignty to fulfill their sacred obligation to bring the dams down and restore the river.
Our Sacred Obligation is the first of a documentary film series, The Salmon People Project, to amplify Indigenous voices as they work to reverse the devastating impact of salmon loss and heal Mother Earth.
To learn more about Children of the Setting Sun Productions, please visit settingsunproductions.org.
Thursday, Feb 23
6:30 - 8:00 PM PT
Wonderful news came last month after a decades-long fight to protect the Bristol Bay watershed and salmon fisheries in Alaska from the catastrophic threat of the Pebble Mine. On January 31st, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a landmark conservation decision in its 404(c) Clean Water Act veto - the “Final Determination” included prohibitions that put an effective end to the threat of the proposed Pebble Mine once and for all.
The entire Bristol Bay ecosystem is the size of Ohio, where over 137 species rely on the salmon that return every year. Thanks to Indigenous stewardship and sustainable management since time immemorial, Bristol Bay watershed in Southwest Alaska has consistently enjoyed adult wild salmon returns year in and year out numbering in the tens of millions. Nearly 80 million sockeye salmon returned to the Bay and its rivers, breaking the previous record of 67.7 million sockeye salmon set in 2021. And the fishery is expected to have another successful run this year, this time without the existential threat of Pebble Mine looming large.
This hard-won victory was led by Tribes, and supported by millions of people—including commercial and sport fishers, businesses, chefs, and many others—whose lives and livelihoods depend on the thriving fishery, and countless others who are fed, sustained and/or inspired by the almost unimaginable abundance of Bristol Bay salmon.
The “Final Determination” prohibits certain waters in Bristol Bay to be used as a disposal site for discharge of dredged material from the routine operation of the proposed Pebble Mine. The “Final Determination” places the same restrictions on future proposals to construct and operate a mine in the South Fork Koktuli, North Fork Koktuli, and Upper Talarik Creek watersheds in Bristol Bay.
“The EPA’s Final Determination is a welcome decision in the region, where the vast majority of residents have long-opposed this toxic project. During Bristol Bay’s robust sockeye salmon season last summer a record number of Bristol Bay residents and Alaskans submitted comments supporting EPA finalizing permanent protections for the watershed.” Read the full Press Release from the United Tribes of Bristol Bay here.
A resounding thank you is in order to the EPA for listening to the calls of Tribes, commercial and recreational fishermen, and the businesses and people in the region who for more than two decades have been calling on policymakers and governments to protect the Bristol Bay watershed. Because of the tireless efforts of many, Bristol Bay, and its expansive upland watershed, will remain intact, protected, productive, resilient, healthy and wild for generations to come.
Recent media on this enormous victory here:
- High Country News: The EPA vetoed Alaska's proposed Pebble Mine
- 'United Tribes of Bristol Bay' Press Release: After years of effort Bristol Bay celebrates EPA's historic action to stop Pebble
- Seattle Times: EPA blocks Alaska Pebble Mine in salmon-rich Bristol Bay region
- New York Times: EPA Blocks Long-Disputed Mine Project in Alaska
If you are in Washington State this spring, please join us at Northwest Artists Against Extinction’s first gallery exhibit: Honor: People and Salmon.
Honor: People and Salmon, an exhibit of works by artists who create art to evoke support for restoring salmon and orcas, and the many communities that honor and cherish these emblematic species. A project of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition, Northwest Artists Against Extinction brings artists together to inspire change in perspective and policy that honors past, present and future generations in the stewardship of lands and waters, and fish and wildlife.
Honor: People and Salmon will be shown in the Kittredge Gallery at the University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, WA). The exhibit will open on March 6th and close on April 15 with a special evening reception. (Note that the gallery will be closed March 11-19, during the University’s spring break)
Please join us to support our incredible participating artists, to view their powerful, beautiful and moving artworks and to be inspired to act in honor of salmon, orca, and the communities that depend on them.
Please contact Britt Freda, firstname.lastname@example.org, with questions regarding this exhibit.
February is Black History Month!
Black History Month is a time to honor and celebrate Black and African Americans’ rich history and cultural heritage and pay tribute to the innumerable contributions of Black and African American communities.
Join SOS in celebrating Black History Month with our favorite Black literature, short films, podcasts, and events on our blog page!
Here are some recent stories about the urgency and opportunity today for the Snake River and Northwest salmon recovery:
- Northwest Sportsman Magazine: Low Summer Steelhead Return Forecasted For Columbia-Snake (Feb. 9, 2023)
- The Inlander: Debate over the lower Snake River dams' removal has gone on for decades. What will it take to protect the river's health? (Feb. 9, 2023)
- Spokesman-Review: Overall run forecast calls for more fish than last year; numbers on the Snake River are down slightly (Feb. 5, 2023)