Wild Salmon & Steelhead News is produced 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 the people and ecosystems, and the extinction crisis they face today. Find out how SOS is helping to lead efforts to restore health, connectivity and resilience to the rivers and streams they depend upon in the Columbia-Snake Basin and how you can get involved and help protect and restore healthy, abundant and fishable populations.

1. SOS wraps up our June ‘Wild Salmon Webinar Series’!
2. Coming soon - 2020 'Hot Water Report' series for the Snake and Columbia Rivers
3. Cause for Snake River sockeye celebration might be premature - Businesses hit hard once again.
4. 40+ Northwest-based Outdoor Recreation Businesses send letter to Governors Brown (OR) and Inslee (WA) - applauding their leadership and urging them forward
5. From SOS' Snake River Vision Project - Penawawa - The lost community and rich bottomlands on the banks of the lower Snake River.


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We rounded off our first Save Our wild Salmon webinar series on June 25th with an excellent conversation with Elliott Moffett (co-founder, Nimipuu Protecting the Environment) and Scott Hauser (Executive Director, Upper Snake River Tribal Foundation) - two leaders from Northwest Tribal communities. They provided an indigenous perspective on the impact of the four lower Snake River dams, the devastating loss of salmon and steelhead abundance and the opportunity, necessity and urgency to restore this river and its native fish populations. The 4-part series in June covered three other issue areas: energy replacement, economics and impacts on recreational fishing communities due to population declines and fishing closures. To learn more about this speaker series and access links to full recordings visit our webpage!

We learned a lot during this initial series and are excited to continue these types of conversations with experts and leaders in the field. We’re already exploring a new set of discussions for late summer/early fall. If you have topics or speakers to recommend, please let us know!

Thanks to all who joined us for this series and conversations last month! If you have any suggestions about the webinars please send them to Carrie. Missed one or more of the webinars? Don’t worry! You can find them all here.



Starting this month, Save Our wild Salmon will begin issuing its 5th Annual weekly series of ‘Hot Water Reports’ tracking in real time rising water temperatures in the lower Snake and lower Columbia rivers - and how the now-reliably hot waters in the summer months impact cold-water species of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin. In addition to reporting on water temperatures in the reservoirs, we'll also spotlight dam removal/river restoration success stories, impacts to human communities and other species like Pacific lamprey and Southern Resident orcas, through graphs, analyses and links to news stories and developments.

The Pacific Northwest’s once-abundant anadromous native fish are struggling to survive today in significant part due to the harmful impacts of dams and reservoirs being made worse by a changing climate. With the 2020 Hot Water Report, we'll aim a spotlight these issues that must be addressed and explore solutions and opportunities they present in order to improve the Northwest’s culture, economy, and environment.

This year's Hot Water Report partners include Sierra Club, Columbia Riverkeeper, Idaho Rivers United, Idaho Wildlife Federation, Snake River Waterkeeper, Northwest Steelheaders, Orca Conservancy, Idaho Conservation League, and Defenders of Wildlife.


This year already we’ve seen constrained commercial fisheries impacting already vulnerable small businesses and sport fishing seasons shrink and/or close across the Inland Northwest due to COVID-19 and devastatingly low spring chinook returns. In contrast to the broad trends of decline, earlier this year fishery managers predicted that this year’s Snake River sockeye returns will be significantly better than last year’s (though still far from recovery goals), but recent data has us questioning these numbers. So far, we’ve seen just 79 adult sockeye successfully arrive at Lower Granite dam (as of July 6th) on the lower Snake River in the southeast corner of Washington State.

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Sockeye are extremely sensitive to hot water and for the last several summers, hot water behind each of these four dams has proven harmful and/or fatal to these long-migrating fish. We’re hoping the cooler than average temperatures in June persist in July to help migrating sockeye entering the mouth of the Columbia River. However, if we see temperatures rise these next six weeks as they have in recent years, it could once again spell big troube for sockeye finding on their way home to Idaho.

Sport and commercial fishing businesses are some of our strongest allies in the fight for river restoration and salmon recovery because they are the economic front line in this fight. Their businesses and communities are hurting most because of these persistently low salmon returns in recent years. If you look at the numbers just ten years ago the number of paid angler trips out to the columbia was over 250,000. Last year that number dipped below 40,000.

Now, more than ever, we need leadership from our elected leaders to push for a restored lower Snake River. Endangered salmon need this, starving orca need this, and our sport fishing and outdoor recreational businesses need this. In fact, American Rivers just came out with a report that shows how “investing in healthy rivers and clean water creates jobs, stimulates the economy and makes our communities stronger.” Right now we need to protect the jobs salmon provide folks all around the region by protecting salmon.

Related News:
Lewiston Tribune: Sockeye, steelhead fisheries in NW see precautionary closures (June 26, 2020)

Idaho News 6: South Fork Salmon Chinook numbers dismal (July 8, 2020)


Rec letter 2020

In the face of challenges posed by both the global pandemic and dismal adult salmon and steelhead populations to the Snake and Columbia rivers, forty-three owners and managers of Northwest-based outdoor recreation businesses and associations sent a letter thanking Governors Kate Brown (OR) and Jay Inslee (WA) for their work toward urgent, comprehensive solutions for the lower Snake River and its endangered native fish populations.

The letter encourages them to continue this important work, recognizing that “[r]iver restoration is an opportunity for all parties to shape a future in which we can thrive, not a zero sum contest in which either energy or salmon - orca or wheat - must lose.”

The science is very clear: restoring a freely flowing lower Snake River will provide a huge step forward toward recovering abundant, resilient salmon and steelhead populations in Northwest rivers, stream and marine waters. River restoration and salmon recovery also presents a tremendous opportunity for economic development for businesses and communities in the Snake River Basin and across the Pacific Northwest that includes but goes far beyond renewed fishing opportunities.

Research has shown that the process of removing the dams, replacing their services with alternatives and restoring riparian/riverside habitats will provide thousands of jobs over a period of years. Down the road, re-established rapids and pools of a free-flowing river and 14,400 acres of lands that are now under water will provide camping, birdwatching, hiking, hunting and whitewater paddling opportunities for generations to come. Rafting and fishing businesses would be able guide clients down the river in autumn when temperatures are cooler and rivers elsewhere are too low for boating. Hotels and restaurants in towns near the Snake like Starbuck, Washtucna and Walla Walla will see an influx of visitors there to enjoy the river, the surrounding areas and all that they offer. Enterprising people from these towns will have new opportunities to start up their own tour companies and provide new employment opportunities for others in nearby rural communities.

SOS hopes this letter reminds our elected leaders of the tremendous economic and job-creating potential of a restored lower Snake River, and keeps them working urgently with others to develop big solutions that help recover endangered salmon and steelhead, expand and diversify clean, reliable energy resources and support a high quality of life.

Read the full text of the letter to the Governors and the accompanying June 23 press release.

Want to get involved? Reach out to Inslee and Brown via our Take Action page!



From the desk of Sam Mace.

Situated upstream from what is today called Central Ferry on the lower Snake River, not far from present day Colfax (WA), Penawawa was a human settlement for many thousands of years before Little Goose Dam inundated the community and surrounding lands in the mid-1960s.

Today, Penawawa Road skirts the north bank of the lower Snake River between Highway 129 and Highway 26, passing a small pick-your-own peach orchard, a couple of ranches and an Army Corps of Engineers 'Habitat Management Unit' at the mouth of Penawawa Creek. The once vibrant small town no longer exists.

Penawawa.after.damBefore the arrival of Europeans, Penawawa was a Palouse Tribe village. Situated at the mouth of Penawawa Creek and canyon, the area had rich bottomlands along the north bank of the lower Snake River. Indigenous people lived at this site continuously for thousands of years.

Whites began arriving and settling in the 1860s and 70s. The settlement soon had access to rail as well as a ferry crossing, making it an important stop along the stage coach route from Pendleton, OR to Spokane, WA. Penawawa had a school, post office and cemetery. Over time, it became well-known for its prolific fruit orchards and productive farms. Local residents still share memories of heading down to pick fruit and play near the river before the town and surrounding lands were inundated by the reservoir behind Little Goose Dam in the late 1960s. The third dam on the lower Snake River to be built, it officially went online in 1970.

Penwawa’s rich history makes it a special place on the lower Snake River. What would it look like restored with a free flowing river? What bird and wildlife habitat could be restored along with the original wetlands? What could modern uses look like? How could tourism and outdoor recreation return and expand? Would orchards return or vineyards grow? What role would Tribes play in the management and use of their ancestral lands? With the fate of and future of the lower Snake River dams on the table today, it’s time for local communities, Tribal people and stakeholders to start conversations that can begin to engage these questions.

Do you have a personal story about Penawawa before it was lost to a reservoir? Contact sam@wildsalmon.org

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