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 these fish depend upon in the Columbia-Snake Basin and how you can get involved to help restore healthy, abundant, and harvestable populations and sustain more just and prosperous communities. To learn more and/or get involved, contact Martha Campos.
1. Public delivers clear mandate to Biden Administration: Restore the lower Snake River and its endangered wild salmon and steelhead populations
2. Hot Water Report 2023 - Snake River salmon and steelhead are in hot water
3. House Republicans host over-the-top field hearing to defend LSR dams and spread misinformation
4. BPA and Northwest get low grid grade
5. An Evening of Art, Poetry and Storytelling at Patagonia Seattle
6. '(We) Choose How It Ends' by Matteo Tamburini, a poem from 'I Sing The Salmon Home: Poems from Washington State'
7. Snake River and salmon media roundup
'Stop Salmon Extinction' ©Jeff Dunnicliff
Almost 82,000 people across the Northwest and nation recently delivered a clear message to the Biden Administration: restore a free-flowing lower Snake River - and recover wild salmon and steelhead. Strong public support for removing the lower Snake River dams and replacing their services was delivered to the Biden Administration's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in response to a request for public comment regarding the restoration of Columbia River salmon and other native fish.
Marc Sullivan, Western Washington Coordinator for the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition, said, “While CEQ has yet to officially report the total number of comments received by the July 3 date requested, based on public comments posted and reports from Save Our wild Salmon Coalition members and allied conservation, fishing and community organizations, we are certain that support for restoring a free-flowing lower Snake constituted the overwhelming majority.”
The written comments echoed public input received in a series of “listening sessions” conducted this spring – on March 31, April 3, and May 25 – addressing the salmon crisis in the Columbia River Basin. In the three sessions, organized by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, 78 percent of speakers expressing a clear opinion called for breaching the four dams and restoring the lower Snake River and its imperiled fish populations.
The listening sessions and written comment period occurred as talks continue between the U.S. government and plaintiffs challenging the Trump Administration’s 2020 salmon recovery plan. These input processes offered members of the public who are not parties to the litigation an opportunity to provide their feedback to the Federal agencies on Columbia River Basin salmonid restoration. The current pause in litigation seeks to develop a comprehensive regional solution for salmon and communities as an alternative to continued legal action. Without an extension, the current pause in litigation will expire on August 31.
“The public has spoken and with great clarity. When it comes to these iconic Northwest species, extinction is not an option. Meaningful recovery of abundant, harvestable salmon and steelhead runs is a necessity,” said Joseph Bogaard, executive director of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. Read more about the CEQ comment period here.
Sockeye salmon with lesions dying from hot water in the Columbia-Snake River Basin ©Conrad Gowell
In June, Save Our wild Salmon Coalition and 16 NGO partners kicked off the 8th Annual Hot Water Report. This weekly report tracks water temperatures in real-time through the summer in the lower Snake and lower Columbia river reservoirs - and highlights how increasingly hot waters harm cold-water-reliant salmon and steelhead and the opportunities to recover healthy, resilient fish populations and the benefits they deliver to the Northwest and nation’s culture, economy, and ecology.
Each summer, harmful hot water episodes above 68°F in the lower Snake and Columbia rivers are increasing in duration, frequency, and intensity. The longer temperatures remain above 68°F and the higher the temperatures rise above 68°F, the more severe the effects, including increased metabolism, increased susceptibility to disease, reduced reproductive potential, and/or death. Anthropogenic induced climate change is worsening these harmful impacts on salmon survival and increasing the urgency to take action to re-establish cool water temperatures - or we will lose these species forever.
As of July 16, 2023, the lower Snake River registered harmful water temperatures for salmon and steelhead. The reservoir behind the Ice Harbor Dam registered the highest temperature, this week, at 71.17°F on July 16, 2023 – a temperature significantly exceeding the legal and biological limit of 68°F, which scientists have identified as critical for protecting salmon. Salmon and steelhead are in hot water.
Recovering abundant salmon populations by restoring a free-flowing lower Snake River through dam removal is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Northwest and nation; and our only feasible option to address hot water temperatures created by the four lower Snake River dams.
The Hot Water Report is a joint project of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition, American Rivers, Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Columbia Riverkeeper, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Environment Oregon, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Orca Network, Sierra Club, Snake River Waterkeeper, Wild Orca and Wild Steelhead Coalition.
“Columbia Basin salmon runs are actually increasing this year.” “The lower Snake River dams and salmon can co-exist.” “Dams don’t kill salmon; it’s the ocean!” “The science isn’t settled; we need a lot more studies first.” “Salmon survival through the dams is 96%.”
SOS’ Joseph Bogaard and a handful of other conservation leaders and allies attended a June 26 Congressional Field Hearing in the Tri-Cities (WA) near the confluence of the Columbia and Snake rivers in Washington State. The statements above are just a few examples of the litany of misinformation and outright lies served up as gospel truth. In fact, the organizers of this field hearing – Reps. Cliff Benz (OR), Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (WA), and Dan Newhouse (WA) – rolled out these message points and much more at a press conference at Ice Harbor Dam prior to the field hearing.
Even the hearing’s title was hyperbolic: The Northwest at Risk: the Environmentalist’s Effort to Destroy Navigation, Transportation, and Access to Reliable Power.
The Congressional organizers invited nine witnesses to testify, including two Biden Administration representatives – from the Army Corps and NOAA - who served as punching bags and boogeymen for much of the afternoon. All other witnesses represented industrial interests who have benefited greatly from a federal hydro-system that is hurting the river, hurting wild salmon and steelhead and other native fish populations, and hurting the countless communities that rely on these irreplaceable species.
Notably, no tribal representatives were invited to testify; and no opposing or divergent viewpoints were presented. Nor was there any opportunity for public comment or inquiry.
Done properly and sincerely, a congressional hearing can be an excellent opportunity to hear different perspectives and learn about circumstances on-the-ground. They can help better understand challenging problems as a first step toward resolving them.
It was evident from the start of this hearing, however, that listening, learning, problem-solving, and collaboration was not on the agenda. This hearing defended an indefensible, costly and illegal status quo, ignored real and pressing problems facing salmon, people, and communities across the state and region, and attacked a Biden Administration that’s “engaged in massive overreach and pushing an extremist, socialist, communist agenda."
Unfortunately but not surprisingly, this hearing was another missed opportunity to bring people together, find common ground and develop and deliver shared solutions for the benefit of the lands, waters, wildlife, and people of the Pacific Northwest.
You can follow these links for more information on last month’s over-the-top hearing, including the editorial from the Columbian in Vancouver, WA that calls out its organizers for “rhetoric that insults our intelligence” and “moving beyond reasonable debate to the point of silliness.”
Spokesman-Review: Environmentalists, politicians clash over Republican hearing to defend Snake River dams (June 26, 2023)
Columbian Editorial: No easy answers for Snake River dams, salmon (June 29, 2023)
Lower Snake River Dam ©EcoFlight
A recent 'Transmission Planning & Development Regional Report Card' by Americans for a Clean Energy Grid gave the Northwest region low marks for transmission planning and development. The evaluation graded ten regions on multiple metrics and gave the Northwest region an overall grade of D.
Long distance electricity transmission in the Northwest is dominated by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), owner of 75% of the region’s capacity. There is no formal regional transmission organization (RTO) in the Northwest; what regional planning coordination exists is coordinated by an entity called Northern Grid.
BPA and the region received a failing grade of F for the factor that accounted for almost 2/3 of the overall grade: “Use of best practices for proactive transmission planning”
The Northwest was hardly alone in receiving a report card you wouldn’t have wanted to take home to your parents. The Southwest got a D- and the Southeast’s overall grade was an F. Top performers were the Midwest and California, with each receiving an overall grade of B.
The topic is of more than academic interest. If the region, and the nation, are to meet clean energy goals, an expanded, modernized transmission system is essential. As Americans for a Clean Energy Grid puts it, “As the electrification of the transportation, heating, and data application sectors significantly increase electricity demand, the U.S. will require modern transmission infrastructure.”
Even before this report, Save Our wild Salmon Coalition member groups and allies have been raising alarms about a lack of vision and sense of urgency in BPA’s transmission planning and development. As Doug Howell, a contract consultant working on transmission issues for a number of Northwest advocacy organizations, explains, “It is a matter of scale and time. The Clean Energy Transmission Institute's new study estimates we'll need 138,000 megawatts of new renewables by 2050. But transmission planning and implementation takes time, too much time. We have to be moving forward as fast as possible on upgrades of existing transmission infrastructure yesterday, and start the tough conversation about new transmission corridors today.”
As a first step, clean energy advocates have called for a “transmission forum” – A multi-stakeholder investigation, to accelerate responsible near-term transmission and storage projects, jump-start more transparent and strategic transmission planning, and effectively utilize federal infrastructure funding in the Northwest.
For the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition, of course, the necessity is to make sure that resources to replace the power output of the four lower Snake dams can find a transmission path to load (demand) centers and end-users.
By Britt Freda, NWAAE creative director
Holly Hughes, poet and publisher, Empty Bowl Press
Surrounded by visual art by Northwest Artists Against Extinction and brightly-colored-Patagonia-gear, salmon and orca advocates, artists, poets and storytellers filled the house at the Patagonia Seattle store. This celebration of salmon and orca, on the evening of June 22nd, was hosted by Patagonia Seattle, Save Our wild Salmon Coalition, Wandering Aengus Press, and Empty Bowl Press, publisher of the 2023 anthology I Sing The Salmon Home: Poems From Washington State.
Audrey Miller, Puyallup Tribe member and middle school student, opened the evening with her introduction in txʷəlšucid. She then proceeded with a chilling, chanted refrain “Hey, Hey you…” from her poem “Evolution from Salmon.” With youth in her voice, Audrey’s poem, which is written from the perspective of the salmon, exudes palpable strength in questions and a culminating plea: “Just please don’t take all the salmon, will you?”
Audrey Miller, poet, Puyallup Tribal member (left) and Joseph Bogaard, executive director, Save Our wild Salmon Coalition (right)
Jill McCabe Johnson, co-editor of the featured poetry collection, For Love of Orcas, published by Wandering Aengus Press, unexpectedly filled the room with a chorus of voices from the entire audience in an emotionally-powerful, musical improvisation evocative of an orca song. And then she read her poetry!
Holly Hughes eloquently wove poets and poems, including her own, into the evening. Kathryn True shared numerous haikus. Andrew Shattuck McBride, co-editor of For Love of Orcas, read one of his poems. On display was a stunning black sculpture of a raven wrapped in salmon, on loan from Holly Hughes and John Pierce. Both the sculpture and an excerpt from “Salmon of the Heart,” (read by Holly) were created by the late, iconic artist and writer Tom Jay. It was clear that his words, read with genuine reverence, awoke inspirational memories of many.
With her parrot and her husband, artist Eileen Klatt drove from Hope, Idaho to tell her decades-old story of pilgrimage and passion that led to the creation of A Litany of Salmon – Eileen’s collection of 61 life-sized watercolors of extinct salmon of the Columbia River watershed. In a rare showing, Eileen shared the sketchbooks, notes, and drawings from that pilgrimage. To boot, she wore the vest and the field bag that accompanied her and those precious notebooks through her 15-year-long journey of research and painting.
Eileen Klatt, NWAAE artist partner and Joseph Bogaard, executive director, Save Our wild Salmon Coalition (left) and Britt Freda, creative director, NWAAE (right)
The evening wrapped with a story written by Carl Safina, in Beyond Words, about legendary orca researcher Ken Balcomb. It was read by Joseph Bogaard and there was nary a dry eye in the audience, including those of the reader.
After the event, Joseph and Britt had a chance to talk about the connective potential of art–visual art, the art of poetry and the art of storytelling. We pondered the ancient, artistic practices of beauty and bond that exist in the sharing of knowledge, wisdom, and ancestry. The arts can be unifying beyond culture, language, and sometimes beyond species. We’ll never truly know how many people who attended the evening will tell friends and family about the stories and poems they heard. We won’t know how many people were inspired to buy a book of poetry or two and spend a week, a month, or a lifetime contemplating salmon and orca differently, more intimately. We won’t be able to track the number of people who were inspired to become greater change makers – from voting, to letter writing, to take-to-the-water-and-streets-advocacy. But at the core of our beings we DO know that art and story matters to our humanity and to the future we build.
Tahlequah ©Britt Freda, Northwest Artists Against Extinction; 2019 - acrylic, gold leaf and graphite on birch panel 36” x 48”
(We) Choose How It Ends by Matteo Tamburini
Again, they return to their stream
for the instinct to live rules supreme.
Our lives are entwined,
profit clouded our mind:
To redeem ourselves, break from its dream!
For countless generations
a generous celebration:
the orcas and bears
had plenty to share.
“Restore!” is my invocation.
To bring back the bounty of yore
as neighbors, we each have our chore:
the actions we’ll take
This world to remake
I Sing the Salmon Home: Poems from Washington State, is edited by Rena Priest and published by Empty Bowl Press. The anthology features more than 150 Washington poets ranging from first graders to Tribal Elders, all inspired by the Northwest's beloved, iconic salmon. You can purchase the anthology here.
Matteo Tamburini is, in order, / a father, husband, and a limerician. / He grew up far from here, across the water, / professionally he's a mathematician. / An honor for the simple words he authored / to be in this felicitous collection. / His catchphrase is that "math is all around us" / and hopes together we'll seek peace and justice.
Here are some recent stories about the urgency and opportunity today for the Snake River and Northwest salmon recovery:
- Spokesman-Review: Environmentalists, politicians clash over Republican hearing to defend Snake River dams (June 27, 2023)
- Columbian Editorial: No easy answers for Snake River dams, salmon (June 26, 2023)