1. More writing on the wall: Lower Snake River commercial navigation continues to unravel

2. Treaty News: Cross-Border Coalition Urges Collaboration In Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty

3. Hey Agencies! What’s your hot water plan for 2016?

4. Southern Resident Orca in the News

5. Celebrate a Restored Elwha River this spring - in Seattle, Spokane, Pullman, Walla Walla, Lewiston/Clarkston

6. ‘Tis the season for whale-watching in the Salish Sea. Support these businesses!

1. More writing on the wall: Lower Snake River commercial navigation continues to unravel

pol.copyUnfortunately, we have some bad news to report: in February, a federal court rejected salmon/fishing advocates’ and Nez Perce Tribe's challenge to the Army Corps’ 2014 Dredging Plan. We filed the lawsuit in late 2014. We were then – and still are – very concerned about:

-- the plan’s harmful impacts on imperiled fish.

-- the Corps’ usual lack of transparency.

-- the fact that the Corps selected dredging the lower Snake River as its preferred solution to the sediment problems piling up behind Lower Granite Dam. In doing so, they summarily dismissed any meaningful analyses or consideration of other potential solutions including lower Snake River dam removal.

-- how the Corps’ plan withheld any meaningful economic analysis on the barging/dredging program’s relative costs and benefits today and over time. Rather than showing the public actual numbers, they simply said - as they so often have before - “just trust us”.

This loss in court, though unfortunate, does nothing to change the fact that the waterway’s days are numbered – as its problems continue to accumulate, and its expenses grow while its benefits decline. This approach hurts everybody: the Corps' credibility and budget, local communities, wild salmon, and American taxpayers. The evidence of decline and the need for a new approach isn't going away:

-- Here is a recent story in the Tri-Cities Herald - Port of Pasco may sell crane, end container business -  about the Port of Pasco’s (on the lower Columbia River) plan to sell its huge orange crane that was purchased several years ago to load containers onto barges. But the crane hasn’t been used in five years – as barge traffic keeps dropping and no one predicts a rebound. So the Port is looking to unload this deadweight and invest in infrastructure that it will actually use.

-- Going, going…Here’s a recent graph from the Port of Lewiston’s own website showing its container traffic activity on the lower Snake River between 1991 and 2015. Enough said.


-- Finally, for lots more information, take a look at SOS’ 2015 Waterway Transportation Report to learn more about the lower Snake River waterway’s rising costs, declining benefits, and status and trends.

2. Columbia River Treaty News: Cross-Border Coalition Urges Collaboration In Modernizing the Treaty

CRT.Ltr.Febr.2016Save Our wild Salmon helped lead efforts to organize a large, diverse group of organizations and associations from the U.S. and Canada to urge both nations to modernize the 52-year old U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty in order to protect the river's environmental values.


On March 10, a letter signed by 51 conservation, fishing and faith groups was sent to top policymakers in the United States and Canada urging them to (1) add a new third purpose to assure the river’s health in the 21st century and to (2) jointly develop and share critical information as an essential step to effectively working together to protect and restore the Columbia River, its watershed and fish and wildlife populations as they negotiate the treaty.


“We support modernizing the 1964 U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty, to improve the health of basin ecosystems and ensure that the river and its people are more resilient to the increasing effects of climate change,” the letter states.


Signers include leaders from conservation, commercial and recreational fishing, and faith communities. The letter is addressed to United States Secretary of State John Kerry, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion, and British Columbia’s Premier Christy Clark.


“The organizations signing this letter represent millions of people who understand that the health of the Columbia River and the interests of communities in both nations will be best served by Treaty negotiations based on collaboration rather than competition,” said Joseph Bogaard, executive director of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. “Though the Columbia River might span two countries, it is one river within a single watershed. Our two nations need to work together to manage and protect it as a single system.”


A copy of the letter can be downloaded here.


Read SOS' press release here and a Columbia Basin Bulletin article here.

3. Federal Agencies! What's your hot water plan for 2016?

the-sunWe haven’t yet seen a "hot water plan" from the federal agencies charged with protecting the Columbia Basin’s wild salmon and steelhead, but we're told it is in the works. That said - salmon and fishing advocates are already highly skeptical - and with good reason. The federal agencies charged with protecting salmon from the lethal impacts of their dams and reservoirs have an extraordinarily poor track record on taking actions that combat rising water temperatures in the Columbia and Snake River watersheds.

NOAA’s scientists are well-respected for their climate change research in the Northwest and beyond. It’s policy staff, however, seem far less committed to turning their scientists’ findings into meaningful actions in lawful plans that will help fish survive in an era of climate change. One of several claims included in the salmon advocates’ pending lawsuit challenging the 2014 Federal Columbia Basin Salmon Plan is its abject failure to follow the best science and to include meaningful actions to address, mitigate or otherwise assist already endangered wild salmon and steelhead survive the intensifying impacts of a changing climate.

When it comes to climate, BPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are also birds of a feather: lots of talk, little action.

In 2004, for example, in its Columbia Basin Water Quality Plan, the Army Corps promised it would perform additional monitoring of water temperatures in the Snake River and model investigations to evaluate alternative operations of central Idaho’s Dworshak Dam/Reservoir, improve water temperature monitoring of the Columbia River System, investigate cool water refugia in the mainstem Columbia and Snake Rivers. To merely model, evaluate, monitor, investigate without meaningful actions that are actually implemented does nothing to protect or restore endangered wild salmon and steelhead.

Now - twelve years later - NOAA and the Corps are proposing the exact same types of non-actions in their upcoming report to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. In a March 7 AP article, Ritchie Graves of NOAA said early suggestions for the plan include putting in new temperature sensors that update faster and would give managers more advance warning about warm water conditions. Last summer, cold water releases from Dworshak Dam were used to cool the Snake River, and Graves said examining how that could be done more effectively will be considered.

Sensors. Examine. Consider. 2004 or 2016 - it all sounds like pretty weak tea.

Graves further adds that, in his view, options are limited when an extended heat wave coincides with low flows in rivers as in 2015, pushing water temperatures above 70 degrees.

Without a doubt in the years ahead, we’ll face more summers like 2015 when 90+ percent of the basin’s 510,000 sockeye died in mainstem reservoirs and rivers that were too hot. We must develop an aggressive, lawful, science-based action plan or we’ll lose these iconic and irreplaceable fish forever.

 4. Endangered Southern Resident Orca in the News

orca.calfFirst, some sad news: J-55, a calf born recently to the J Pod several months ago, is missing and presumed dead. J-55 was the ninth calf born since December 2014 to the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population. SRKWs frequent the marine waters of the Pacific Northwest and rely heavily on Chinook salmon for survival. This recent baby boom is almost without precedent – and needless to say - welcome news. Just 85 individual whales – now 84 – remain in the wild. Lack of adequate prey is considered the top cause of decline. More on the calf here at the Seattle Times.

As you read this newsletter, many SRKWs are very likely hunting for spring Chinook near the mouth of the Columbia River and along the Washington State coastline. Satellite-tagging in recent years confirms that the Southerrn Resident orcas frequent these waters, particularly in late winter and early spring, to feast on large fatty spring Chinook that are gathering there before they head upriver to spawn. Over the last several years, NOAA scientists have collected more than 100 orca fecal samples (poop) here and are only now - after Orca Salmon Alliance leaders pressed the agency - finally analyzing them. We hope to learn the initial results of the agency’s analyses as early as this spring – it can help us focus the region’s salmon recovery priorities to ensure the greatest benefit for both wild salmon and the “blackfish” that rely upon them.

For more information on these orcas, follow these links to recent media coverage from SOS member group NRDC and public radio in the Northwest and nationally.

(1) NRDC OnEarth Magazine: Whales With a Dam Problem - Orcas in the Pacific Northwest are struggling to boost their numbers. Could dams have something to do with it?

(2) KUOW Public Radio: How Helping Salmon Could Save Puget Sounds' Baby Orcas

(3) NPR’s Here and Now: Killer Whale Baby Boom Is Good News, But Why So Many Males?

5. Celebrate a Restored Elwha River this spring - in Seattle, Spokane, Pullman, Walla Walla, and Lewiston/Clarkston

82979.adapt.885.1This Spring, SOS is working with our conservation and business allies to host a series of events in Washington State that celebrate and examine the historic dam removal and restoration of the Elwha River and its salmon and steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula.

(1) In eastern Washington: We're hosting Return of the River – the award-winning documentary that shows how people came together to achieve the nation’s largest dam removal project to date – how it happened and what it means for Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and other local communities, and the region's economy and ecology. All screenings will be followed by a panel of experts with Q&A to discuss lessons learned and what it means for restoring the lower Snake River.

Return of the River Screenings in Spokane (April), Pullman (April), Walla Walla (April) and Lewiston/Clarkston (Date TBD). Check back to the SOS website for further information. We'll send out further details shortly. Contact: Sam Mace

(2) In western Washington, we're co-hosting An Evening on the Elwha - Thursday, May 12 at the Town Hall of Seattle. Join us for a series of “speed-talks” by 10 experts who have been working to plan, implement, monitor and now restore to health the Elwha River watershed, post-dams. Contact: Joseph Bogaard

6. ‘Tis the season for whale-watching in the Salish Sea. Support these businesses!

Here are two businesses that support SOS’ work to rebuild healthy Chinook salmon populations in the Columbia/Snake Basin that are critical to the survival of Southern Resident Killer Whales - and so much more.

Western Prince Whale and Wildlife Watching Tours



San Juan Outfitters











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