WSSNWild Salmon & Steelhead News is published 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 Carrie Herrman.


1. Finally! Senator Murray and Governor Inslee plant their stakes re: the LSR and the urgent need for a comprehensive solution for salmon and communities
2. Nez Perce Tribe’s new ‘extinction assessment’: Urgent action needed to prevent endangered populations from entering extinction vortex
3. New economic assessment finds that 'Simpson proposal' would create 20K jobs
4. “Lostine River - NE Oregon”: a new video from Pacific Rivers spotlights unlikely partners working together to restore endangered chinook salmon in the Snake River Basin
5. Southern Resident orca ad campaign in Washington State calls on Sens. Murray and Cantwell’s leadership
6. Dam Removal Success Stories 2021: Fourth in a Series – Restoring the Patapsco River
7. Shout-out to Jen McLuen and J-POD PRINTS

1. Finally! Senator Murray and Governor Inslee plant their stakes re: the LSR and the urgent need for a comprehensive solution for salmon and communities

May has been a very active month for the Snake River and its salmon.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and its two U.S. Senators – Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell – have finally weighed in publicly on Rep. Simpson’s transformative proposal – more than three months after he unveiled it and invited feedback.

Unfortunately, they’re opposed to the Simpson proposal and do not believe it "can be included in the proposed federal infrastructure package.” Needless to say, Washington State’s powerful senators will have a lot of influence on the multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill that is now taking shape in Washington D.C.

As you’ll recall, in February Rep. Simpson unveiled a visionary concept to protect and restore critically endangered salmon and steelhead populations by removing four deadly dams on the lower Snake River and making major investments in Northwest communities and energy/transportation infrastructure. His stated goals include solving problems, meeting needs, providing greater certainty and encouraging less conflict and more collaboration. All good outcomes that everyone can and should support.

Salmon, orca and fishing advocates across the Northwest and beyond are very grateful for Rep. Simpson’s courageous and visionary leadership to disrupt a costly and painful status quo that has been harming salmon and communities for a very long time. After three decades, five illegal federal plans, $18B in (mis)spending, wild salmon and steelhead are heading toward extinction. Committed, active political leadership - and a dramatically new approach - is urgently needed. There's no time to waste!

With his proposal – and to his great credit - Mr. Simpson has spurred a desperately needed conversation about the future of the Pacific Northwest: our identity, values, culture, economy and environment. More pointedly – about whether we will stubbornly resist making some adjustments in how we live and do business in order to prevent wild salmon and steelhead – and the irreplaceable benefits they bring - from disappearing forever. This is an especially poignant and existential question for Native American Tribes – the Salmon People of the Northwest – as well as for the criticially endangered Southern Resident orcas that rely mainly on chinook salmon for their food and survival.

There is also a real opportunity in last week's announcement from Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee. Their joint statement from May 14 acknowledges that “[r]egional collaboration on a comprehensive, long-term solution to protect and bring back salmon populations in the Columbia River Basin and throughout the Pacific Northwest is needed now more than ever.

Murray and InsleeThey further declare that “[a]ny solution must honor Tribal Treaty Rights; ensure reliable transportation and use of the river; ensure ongoing access for our region’s fishermen and sportsmen, guarantee Washington farmers remain competitive and are able to get Washington state farm products to market; and deliver reliable, affordable, and clean energy for families and businesses across the region.”

And they conclude with “[w]e are ready to work with our Northwest Tribes, states, and all the communities that rely on the river system to achieve a solution promptly. We, too, want action and a resolution that restores salmon runs and works for all the stakeholders and communities in the Columbia River Basin.

Setting aside the fact that their statement sure sounds a lot like what Rep. Simpson has been saying for months, Gov. Inslee and Sen. Murray have now planted their stake in the ground. They’ve made a commitment to bring people together, honor Tribal Treaty Rights, meet community needs, to restore salmon – all on an urgent timeline.

Disappointingly, Sen. Cantwell made clear that protecting Snake River salmon from extinction is not a priority. She opposes Simpson’s effort and has declined to support the initiative put forth by Murray and Inslee. Instead, she’s announced her focus on Puget Sound salmon recovery. While restoring salmon in the Puget Sound Basin is very important, her dismissal of critically endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia-Snake Basin is deeply disappointing. Restoring these populations is essential to Tribes, river communities, recreation and a way of life east of the Cascade Mountains. She needs to hear from constituents that real salmon recovery is an urgent state- and region-wide priority – in both the Puget Sound and the Columbia-Snake River Basins.

Senator Murray and Governor Inslee, on the other hand, have stepped up – and it is up to us to hold them accountable – and to support their emerging leadership. This is our work now and we start it today.

The campaign to restore the lower Snake River and its salmon, of course, is bigger than two politicians or a single state. This has always been a regional endeavor - and one with great national significance. Our success depends not only on committed leadership in the Northwest, but also in Washington D.C. – from the full Congress and the Biden Administration.

Finally, we greatly appreciate the leadership of Congressmen Simpson and Blumenauer and Oregon's Governor Kate Brown. Their support for salmon recovery, willingness to disrupt a status quo that no longer works, and advocacy for comprehensive long-term solutions for salmon and orcas and communities – has been critical to bring us to where we are today. We look forward to continuing to work with them and others in the weeks and months ahead.

Links to further information:

Read this SOS blog post on recent developments here.

And the Seattle Times article from May 14: Gov. Inslee, Washington state’s U.S. senators reject GOP congressman’s pitch on Lower Snake River dam removal

2. Nez Perce Tribe’s new ‘extinction assessment’ finds that urgent action is needed to prevent endangered populations from entering ‘extinction vortex’

Nearly half of the wild spring chinook populations in the Snake River Basin have crossed a critical threshold, signaling they are nearing extinction and without intervention may not persist, according to analysis by the Nez Perce Tribe. The river’s steelhead populations, while doing better, also face alarming threats to their existence, according to the work.

thumbnail NPT.studyModeling conducted by tribal fisheries scientists and shared with other state, federal and tribal fisheries managers in the Columbia Basin indicates if current trends continue, 77 percent of Snake River spring chinook populations and 44 percent of steelhead populations will be in a similar position within four years.

Tribal fisheries officials say a wide array of short- and long-term actions, such as new conservation hatcheries, predator control, increased spill at Snake and Columbia river dams, and adoption of Rep. Mike Simpson’s plan to breach the four lower Snake River dams, are urgently needed. Fisheries officials in Oregon and Washington agree dam removal should be considered and other actions above and beyond current salmon and steelhead recovery efforts should be pursued.

Regional fisheries managers praised the tribe’s work and said it signals the need for more conservation measures.

“If this isn’t a wake-up call, I’m not sure what folks would be looking for,” said Tucker Jones, ocean and salmon program manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“We think their analysis is cause for concern,” said Bill Tweit, special assistant in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fish Program.

“Anytime you have a total spawner abundance less than 50 fish, that really puts you in a bad spot,” said Lance Hebdon, anadromous fish manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

This new report builds on a long series of scientific studies and findings: situation for imperiled Snake River salmon and steelhead populations is dire. The steadily tightening vise of climate change is worsening the situation and making the need for real action more urgent than ever. The science shows it, the people of the region know it - and it's time that our public officials act on it! Related news:

Lewiston Morning Tribune: Tribe’s fish study is ‘a call to alarm(April 30)

The Spokesman Review: The U.S. promised the Nez Perce fishing rights. But what if Snake River dams kill off the fish? (May 9)

3. New economic assessment finds that Simpson proposal would create 20K jobs

BERK StudyIdaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson’s proposal for infrastructure spending across the Northwest would support an average of 20,000 jobs annually through 2031, according to a new economic assessment of the proposal.

An independent firm, BERK Consulting was commissioned to analyze the economic impact of the proposed $33.5 billion “Columbia Basin Fund,” which aims to prevent salmon extinction by bypassing four dams on the lower Snake River and making significant investments in agriculture, irrigation, shipping and power generation.

“From an economic perspective, the proposal holds great promise for stimulating jobs, fully mitigating the impacts of change for industries in the region, and investing in a resilient future for the region’s economy,” said Brian Murphy, who oversaw the study.

More than 90 percent of the Columbia Basin Fund would support regional economic investment, including support for new energy sources, shipping, local economic development in Lewiston and Clarkston, outdoor recreation, and conservation work, BERK found, with 7 percent going to bypassing the dams.

Additional important findings include:

  • The impact on the region would be felt immediately. Nearly 60 percent of the Fund’s spending would occur before the dams are bypassed.
  • Nearly a quarter of it would likely be spent in nine counties closest to the dams, including the cities of Lewiston, Clarkston, Tri-Cities and the lower Snake River corridor.
  • $21.2 billion would likely be spent on infrastructure, stimulating job creation and spending throughout the region.
  • Under the Fund, grain producers would likely face lower shipping costs, as its budget for shipping development exceeds previous estimates for what would be required to mitigate dam bypass.
  • Similarly the Fund’s budget for irrigation exceeds previous estimates for mitigation costs.
  • Local and state budgets would benefit from additional sales taxes and one-time revenues, as well as potential ongoing tax receipts associated with a strengthened economy.

Read BERK’s full report here.
Read BERK’s summary of key findings here. 

4. “Lostine River - NE Oregon”: a new video from Pacific Rivers spotlights unlikely partners working together to restore endangered chinook salmon in the Snake River Basin

Watch this excellent new 5-minute videoLostine by SOS member organization Pacific Rivers showing how the Nez Perce Tribe and owners of Wolfe Ranch are working together to improve habitat and restore endangered spring chinook populations in the Lostine River in northeast Oregon. The Lostine and others rivers in this corner of Oregon are important tributaries of the Snake River. Restoring the lower Snake River through dam removal will deliver huge benefits for the currently imperiled salmon and steelhead populations that spawn and rear in northeast Oregon - and is a necessary complement to this very good and sustained work being spearheaded by community leaders in this corner of Oregon for many years. Historically, the rivers and streams of northeast Oregon were highly productive salmon and steelhead habitats, with millions of fish returning annually.

The special collaboration highlighted in this new video speaks to the importance of salmon and steelhead and healthy rivers to both tribal and non-tribal communities across the Pacific Northwest - and how their fight for survival has the unique ability to bring people together in unique partnerships.

5. Southern Resident orca ad campaign in Washington State papers calls on Sens. Murray and Cantwell’s leadership. orca adIn April, SOS worked with nine partner organizations to organize print and digital ads in four Washington State newspapers – highlighting the plight of the Southern Residents and their urgent need for more – many more – chinook salmon in order to survive and reproduce. Partner organizations include Sierra Club, Orca Conservancy, Earthjustice, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, Earth Ministry, Orca Network, Wild Orca, Whale Scout and Environment Washington. The half-page print ads ran in the Sunday editions of the Seattle Times, Olympian, Tacoma News Tribune, and Spokesman-Review. Taken together, the print and digital ads were seen by well over 1 million people across the state. We encourage all Washington State residents to call and write Sens. Murray and Cantwell to urge their urgent leadership to develop and advance a comprehensive plan to restore the lower Snake River and its salmon and invest in Northwest communities and infrastructure. See the top story above for further information on recent signs of engagement by Sen. Murray and a continuing lack of engagement by Sen. Cantwell. You can learn more about this ad campaign and find links to further information here.

6. Dam Removal Success Stories 2021: Fourth in a Series – Restoring the Patapsco River

PatapscoRiverThis year, Save Our Wild Salmon and American Rivers have teamed up for a 5-part series spotlighting dam removal success stories from across the Northwest and the nation. These short, informal ‘case studies’ take a close look at recent dam removal projects and explore some of these projects’ economic, community, ecological, and social justice outcomes. All of the stories share themes of renewal, opportunity, and benefit. Dam removal projects frequently start with a struggle over values and visions. In successful cases, this is followed by conflict resolution and collaboration. Persistence is required in nearly all cases - but the payoff is high. River restoration projects - 69 dams were removed across the United States just in 2020! - invariably deliver significant benefits to communities, economies, and ecosystems - and have transformed many a skeptic to supporter. Restoring the Patapsco River: The fourth story in our series focuses on the Patapsco River, which flows from its headwaters in central Maryland into Baltimore Harbor. Since 2010, three dams have been removed on the river, including Union Dam, Simpkins Dam, and Bloede Dam. This case highlights the Bloede Dam removal, which occurred in 2018 and restored 65 miles of spawning habitat for blueback herring, alewife, American shad, hickory shad, and over 183 miles for American eel. Though dam removal was recent, dwindling populations of alewife and blueback herring are already returning to the river. Just this year, researchers saw an alewife upstream of the previous site of the Bloede Dam. A researcher from the Department of Natural Resources, William Harbold, stated, “That single fish was able to swim unimpeded from the Atlantic Ocean to that spot in the Patapsco River. That’s something that hasn’t been possible for well over 100 years, maybe longer.” Further, Bloede Dam removal was essential for public safety; it caused many injuries to swimmers and multiple deaths over the dam’s lifetime. Now, the Patapsco River is coming back to life, and hikers, anglers, campers, and kayakers can safely enjoy the river system. Read the full story about the Patapsco River here. Look for our fifth and final “success story” next month, spotlighting the Sandy River.

7. Shout-out to Jen McLuen and J-POD PRINTS

jpod artThis month, we want to give a huge shout-out to Jen McLuen, a teacher and artist who generously shares her time and her talents to support our work at Save Our wild Salmon.

From her website at "I grew up in the Salish Sea region, and continue to be inspired by the beautiful place we call home. I hand-carve all of my prints, and print each one by hand with a small press at home. I make limited edition prints, as well as cards. I feel a deep connection to the Southern Resident Killer Whales, who are in dire straits, primarily due to lack of food."

For the last three years, Jen has shared her beautiful handmade notecards and other artwork to help Save Our wild Salmon build its community and advance our program work. She sells her notecards and prints at fairs and other events in western Washington - and online. In addition to sharing her cards and artwork, Jen donates 100% of her proceeds from sales to SOS. See - and purchase - Jen’s beautiful artwork here.

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