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. Take Action: Submit a comment to the Biden administration to stop salmon extinction
2. Coming soon: 'Hot Water Report' for the Lower Snake and Columbia Rivers
3. Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty: Second Listening Session affirms support for ecosystems and justice as deadline looms
4. Join us for 'An Evening of Art, Poetry and Story' celebrating salmon and orca on June 22
5. ‘I Whisper Anyway’ by Tele Aadsen, a poem from 'I Sing The Salmon Home: Poems from Washington State' anthology
6. Welcome McKenna Shultz - SOS Community Engagement Intern!
7. SUPERPOD book by Nora Nickum, introduces kids to orcas
8. Snake River and salmon media roundup
As part of the Biden administration’s efforts to hear from stakeholders and citizens who are not directly involved in the National Wildlife Federation v. National Marine Fisheries Service litigation (and the associated confidential settlement talks under way since Oct. 2021), the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has announced a new opportunity to submit written comments concerning federal and regional activities to protect and restore salmon and steelhead in the Snake and Columbia rivers and their tributaries.
We hope you will join many others from across the country to tell the Biden administration that removing the four lower Snake River dams—and replacing the services they provide—must be a part of a comprehensive solution that:
- Restores abundant, harvestable salmon and steelhead populations across the Northwest
- Restores a free-flowing lower Snake River by removing its four aging, costly dams
- Upholds treaty responsibilities and commitments to Tribal Nations
- Supports healthy, thriving populations of Southern Resident orcas
- Invests in a sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future
- Acts with the urgency needed to stop salmon extinction
The Biden administration must use the best available science and build off of the strong foundation and leadership by Sen. Patty Murray (WA-D), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Rep. Mike Simpson (ID-R), Washington State legislators, and others to develop a comprehensive plan for salmon recovery—before Northwest salmon, steelhead, and Southern Resident orcas are lost forever.
Submit a written comment before the official comment period ends on July 3; sooner is better.
PLEASE ACT TODAY - Help us send a message of overwhelming public support for salmon restoration!
Questions about submitting a public comment? Contact Marc Sullivan, Western Washington Coordinator, at - email@example.com
Save Our wild Salmon and coalition partners will soon kick off our 8th annual weekly series of the Hot Water Report. Starting later this month, the Hot Water Report will elevate the visibility, importance, and consequences of the harmful impacts of high water temperatures and a changing climate on already-endangered coldwater fish in the Snake and Columbia River Basin.
The once-abundant anadromous fish populations in the Columbia-Snake River Basin are struggling to survive today primarily due to multiple harms caused by the federal dams and their reservoirs. The federal hydro-system creates conditions that harm and kill both juvenile and adult fish, including by elevating water temperatures in large, stagnant reservoirs in the summer months. These cold-water fish begin to suffer harmful effects when water temperatures exceed 68° Fahrenheit. The longer and the higher these temperatures rise above 68°F, the greater the harm.
During the summer months, these harmful hot water episodes above 68°F in the Columbia/Snake Rivers are increasing in duration, frequency, and intensity. Our changing climate is making an already deadly situation for the Northwest’s iconic fish even worse. Scientists predict that 2023 will be another year of harmful hot water conditions for endangered fish in the Columbia Basin.
Our region and nation must take urgent action to restore cooler water temperatures - or we will lose these species forever. Restoring a freely flowing lower Snake River by removing its four federal dams is our only feasible option to address high water temperatures, restore salmon abundance, and uphold our nation's promises to Tribes. Last fall, NOAA included lower Snake River dam removal as one of three urgently needed "centerpiece actions" to avoid extinction and restore salmon abundance.
This year’s Hot Water Report will track water temperatures in real-time in the lower Snake and lower Columbia river reservoirs and highlight related issues and challenges facing the Columbia and Snake rivers, including the opportunities to improve them in order to recover healthy, resilient fish populations and the benefits they deliver to the Northwest and nation’s culture, economy, and ecology. Stay tuned for our first issue of the Hot Water Report. Coming soon!
On May 31, the U.S. Government held the second of two recent 'Listening Sessions' on the Columbia River Treaty, a 1964 agreement with Canada that shapes the management of the international Columbia River Basin. Public testimony at this event echoed many of the comments made at the April 19 Listening Session, with strong, consistent support for prioritizing ecosystem health alongside hydropower and flood control.
A recording of this Session has yet to be released (you can watch the April 19 Session here). Remarks from senior U.S. State Department officials at the event highlighted ongoing efforts to craft a deal with Canada. While an ‘agreement-in-principle’ has not yet been developed, parties are meeting regularly with an 18th round of negotiations scheduled for August.
At this recent Session, U.S. Chief Negotiator Jill Smail noted that “September 2024 is just around the corner for planning purposes… We're working very hard to find common ground, so sovereigns and stakeholders in both countries can begin planning for the future."
On September 16, 2024, Canada’s obligation to guarantee pre-planned (“assured”) use of its reservoirs to reduce downstream flood risk in the U.S. will end. With joint planning for the 2024-2025 water year already overdue, this tight timeline is cause for concern.
Without an updated agreement with Canada to ‘modernize’ the Treaty, the U.S. may find itself unprepared for an abrupt switch from “assured” to “called upon” flood risk management system. Assured flood management has been in place since 1964, when the Treaty was first ratified. “Called upon” would mean that the U.S. must first exhaust all of its own flood risk management capabilities in the U.S. south of the border before calling Canada for help. While details are uncertain, this would likely require the U.S. to significantly modify long-running reservoir operations to be able to catch flood waters that were formerly dealt with by Canadian reservoirs. This could force major operational changes in at least eight dams and reservoirs located in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and potentially many more in the Columbia Basin in the U.S.
At SOS, we are worried that the dam agencies could further deprioritize the health of fish and wildlife in any new dam and reservoir operations and inflict new harm on already struggling fish populations as well as the river’s overall ecosystem and the Tribal and non-Tribal communities that depend on a healthy river and fish and wildlife.
At both Listening Sessions this spring, the public communicated strong support for U.S. and Canada agreeing on a modernized Columbia River Treaty that adds Ecosystem Function, the health of the river, as a third primary purpose co-equal to the original purposes of hydropower production and flood risk management.
In addition to a modernized Treaty that prioritizes 'river health', the U.S. also must fix the treaty’s current governance system to ensure that Ecosystem Function will be effectively implemented as we move forward.
President Biden can start us down this path now by revising an existing Executive Order that identifies two dam agencies - BPA and Army Corps of Engineers - to implement the treaty in coordination with Canada. We need a new agency or expert voice to represent the 'health of the river' alongside these agencies. Regardless of what the U.S. and Canada ultimately agree on for the Treaty, adding a ‘voice for the river’ to improve U.S. treaty implementation and the health of the river and its inhabitants is a critically needed next step.
You can read more about this important opportunity, and related treaty issues, in a recent Columbia Insight opinion column by SOS Executive Director Joseph Bogaard.
Stay tuned for more information. The next several months could be pivotal on the path to modernize the Treaty.
You can learn more and send federal decision makers a letter affirming your support for a Columbia River Treaty that reflects today’s values and meets present and future challenges at crtreaty.org/take-action
The evening will feature the newly released anthology I Sing The Salmon Home: Poems from Washington State, edited by 2021-23 Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest, and published by Empty Bowl Press, and For Love of Orcas, published by Wandering Aengus Press. Creative contributors from both anthologies will share poetry along with additional stories - surrounded by stunning salmon and orca artwork on the walls.
Join us and hear from poets and writers, including:
- Joseph Seymour (Squaxin Island Tribe)
- Rena Priest (Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation and Washington State Poet Laureate 2021-2023)
- Audrey Miller (Puyallup Tribe), creative contributor to I Sing the Salmon Home
- Kathryn True, creative contributor to I Sing the Salmon Home
- Jill McCabe Johnson and Andrew Shattuck McBride, co-editors of For Love of Orcas
- Holly Hughes, co-publisher of I Sing the Salmon Home and creative contributor to For Love of Orcas.
In honor of ‘Orca Action Month’ in June, Patagonia Seattle has partnered with Northwest Artists Against Extinction, a project of SOS, to bring artwork from the recent Honor: People and Salmon exhibit at the University of Puget Sound to the walls of Patagonia Seattle. Honor: People, Salmon & Orca is a collection of works by artist-advocates who create art to evoke support for restoring salmon and orcas, their lands and waters, and the many communities that honor and cherish these emblematic species.
“I think of the words of Ursula K. Le Guin, who said, ‘resistance and change often begin in art,’ says Holly J. Hughes, copublisher of Empty Bowl Press. “That’s because art, poetry, and story connect with us on a deeper level and can speak more powerfully than data or facts. They reach us on an emotional level, where change begins.”
We hope you will join us for an inspirational gathering centered around art, poetry, and story - and the diverse ways in which we cherish salmon & orca. Learn more and RSVP here!
SOS is excited to share a poem from the newly released anthology I Sing the Salmon Home: Poems from Washington State, edited by Rena Priest and published by Empty Bowl Press. Purchase the anthology here and join us at the 'An Evening of Art, Poetry & Story' on June 22 to hear about this new collection of poetry gathered by Priest, from more than 150 Washington poets ranging from first graders to Tribal Elders, all inspired by the Northwest's beloved, iconic salmon.
I Whisper Anyway by Tele Aadsen
The new-penny scent of king salmon is heavy in the air as I slide steel beneath gill plate, slicing feathery tissue so unlike my own lungs. We die the same, in crimson bursts from busted pipes. Blood pools around her body as I trace a finger down the amethyst lateral line. My glove leaves a trail of flat aluminum, her color already fading like a dream.
"Thank you." I whisper this knowing it doesn't matter. Speaking sweet to salmon in the water, thanking them in the boat: these are rituals ridiculous to many of my colleagues, and to me, too, sometimes. This fish is dead by my hand, with many more to follow. I whisper anyway. Even as we make our living taking these lives, I want to always remember a salmon's value is not its price per pound. Salmon are more than a commodity; they are silver-robed ambassadors of home and hope, risk and return. They are ancestors shared across cultures, linking sea and land; the matchmaking elders who bring so many of us together. They are gods creating and sustaining us, one fish at a time.
Tele Aadsen is a writer, commercial fisherman, fishmonger, and lapsed social worker. She lives ocean-summers as a thankful guest on the waters of Lingit Aani, Southeast Alaska, aboard the F/V Nerka with partner Joel Brady-Power, and land-winters in the Coast Salish territory of Bow, Washington. She self-markets their catch through Nerka Sea-Frozen Salmon, performs annually at Oregon's Fisher Poets Gathering, and has a collection of essays forthcoming from Empty Bowl Press in 2023.
SOS would like to introduce you to the newest member of our team - McKenna Shultz!
McKenna recently graduated from Gonzaga University with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies, and is currently in the final stages of completing a master’s degree in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School. As McKenna nears the end of her graduate program, Snake/Columbia River restoration has consistently been the primary environmental issue of our time that inspires her the most.
McKenna’s academic and professional interests include environmental justice, energy equity, and food system resilience—all of which are intricately intertwined within the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition’s work. McKenna is from a small, rural town south of Portland, OR, where she is residing while she finishes her studies. She is excited to see how she can help serve as a liaison between rural stakeholders throughout Oregon and SOS. When she is not working or studying, McKenna spends the majority of her time dancing as a pre-professional ballet student.
Celebrate ‘Orca Action Month’ by reading a newly released orca book, SUPERPOD: Saving the Endangered Orcas of the Pacific Northwest by Nora Nickum!
Nora Nickum is senior ocean policy manager at the Seattle Aquarium, where she leads orca recovery and other ocean conservation policy efforts. Nora also writes nonfiction and fiction books for children. Her latest book, SUPERPOD: Saving the Endangered Orcas of the Pacific Northwest, acquaints kids age 8-12 and up with the playful and beloved Southern Resident orcas and the people working to save them from extinction using tactics that vary from medicine and laws to drones and dogs.
The endangered Southern Resident orcas whistle and click their way around the waters of the Pacific Northwest in three small family groups while facing boat noise, pollution, and scarce food. SUPERPOD: Saving the Endangered Orcas of the Pacific Northwest introduces young readers to the experts who are training scat-sniffing dogs, inventing ways to treat sick orcas, quieting the waters, studying whales from the air, and speaking out. In the book, Nora Nickum also discusses her own work on laws to protect the orcas, tackles the dark history of orca capture for marine parks, and shares moments of wonder. Readers can dive in to help save these majestic orcas with diverse action ideas and to find inspiration for a wide range of future careers.
If you have or know a youngster with an interest in the natural world, SUPERPOD is highly recommended. You can find it at many independent bookstores and online bookstores.
Nora Nickum is the author of SUPERPOD: Saving the Endangered Orcas of the Pacific Northwest (Chicago Review Press, 2023). Her stories and articles have appeared in children's magazines like Cricket, Ladybug, and Muse. Nora also leads ocean conservation policy work for the Seattle Aquarium. She lives on an island in Washington state. Learn more at www.noranickum.com
Check out these two ‘Orca Action Month’ events to hear more from Nora Nickum and her new book:
- Youth Zoom Event with Nora Nickum: Join Orca Network for a special Orca Month Youth Zoom event with Nora Nickum on Jun 21, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM PT via Zoom. Nora will talk about the process of writing the book and share some Southern Resident orca stories.
- Library Event: Puget Sound Orcas: Join local author and educator Nora Nickum to learn about our Southern Resident orcas on Jun 24, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM at the Sylvan Way Library, Bremerton, WA.
Go to orcamonth.com for more details on Orca Action Month, upcoming events, and to learn more about orcas.
Here are some recent stories about the urgency and opportunity today for the Snake River and Northwest salmon recovery:
- Seattle Times Opinion: Salmon restoration is a matter of ecological, cultural survival by Sen. Claudia Kauffman D-Kent (June 14, 2023)
- Spokesman-Review Guest Opinion: Four tribal chairs: We need a Columbia Basin Initiative for salmon, tribes and energy by Gerald Lewis, Kat Brigham, Jonathan W. Smith, Sr. and Shannon F. Wheeler (June 4, 2023)
- Everett Herald Opinion: Sen. Cantwell should join effort to retire Snake dams by Miles Johnson (May 26, 2023)
- National Wildlife Federation Blog: Crashing salmon stocks in California extend to Pacific Northwest (June 8, 2023)
- Seattle Times: Freeing the Klamath: 20 years negotiations began the dams are coming down (June 11, 2023)