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Restoring the Lower Snake River

February 2017

1mccoy.sea.inside.jbDespite efforts by the “Action Agencies" to bury an important public comment process amidst a chaotic election cycle and the year-end holidays, conservation and fishing advocates did an excellent job generating media coverage, contacting elected officials, and organizing comment and turnout at more than a dozen public meetings in support of restoring wild salmon populations and removing the four costly dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington.

The board and staff of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition send out a huge "THANK YOU!" to all the organizations, businesses and individuals that mobilized during the recent NEPA Public Comment Period - to spread the word, make presentations, educate friends and family, submit comment, attend rallies and meetings, and much more!

More than 2,000 citizens attended rallies to "Free the Snake" and the agencies’ public meetings and close to 400,000 people from across the Northwest and nation submitted their official public comments expressing support for the restoration of a freely-flowing lower Snake River as a critical part of any legally valid salmon protection plan in the Columbia Basin.

-- View photos from the public meetings (and the 2016 Free the Snake Flotilla) across the region here. --

The Agency-led NEPA Public Scoping and Comment Period closed on February 7, 2017 but only after significant numbers of citizen comments, detailed policy comments and dozens of media stories. More than 50 stories and opinion pieces appeared last fall and early winter in print, online and on television and radio and included salmon, orca, fishing, and river advocates' concerns and perspectives. There were also numerous citizen and community leader meetings with state and federal elected officials.

-- See a listing of and links to the media coverage of the Fall 2016-Winter 2017 NEPA Review Public Scoping and Comment Period here. --


In addition to hundreds of thousands of citizen comments, scores of entities in the region also submitted detailed public comment – delivering recommendations to the Action Agencies about issues of critical concern as they begin what must be a full, fair, comprehensive and transparent NEPA Review and consideration of all salmon restoration alternatives, including the removal of the four high-cost, low-value lower Snake River dams.

Below find a partial list of official comments from federal agencies, Tribes, States, utilities and NGOs asking the Action Agencies to, among other things, carefully, thoroughly and fairly consider the costs, benefits, opportunities and tradeoffs associated with the removal of the four federal dams on the lower Snake River.

-- Read selected excerpts concerning the lower Snake River dams from EPA, Nez Perce Tribe, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Pacific Fisheries Management Council, Washington State, Oregon, City of Lewiston, Seattle City Light, and others here. --

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Links to complete public comments below from:

State of Oregon

State of Washington

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

Nez Perce Tribe

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Pacific Fisheries Management Council

Seattle City Light

National Wildlife Federation

Save Our wild Salmon Coalition/Earthjustice

Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association

Coastal Trollers Association

NW Energy Coalition / Idaho Conservation League

Natural Resource Defense Council

Sierra Club

Orca-Salmon Alliance

Natural Resource Economics

BACKGROUND: The three Northwest Dam Agencies – Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently completed the first phase – Public Scoping and Official Comment Period - of a court-ordered NEPA EIS Analysis. On May 4, 2016, United States District Court in Portland rejected the federal government’s 2014 Salmon Plan for the Columbia/Snake River Basin based on violations of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. This was the fifth consecutive federal salmon plan for the Columbia/Snake Rivers to be rejected now by three judges across twenty years.

Following on his May ruling, presiding Judge Michael Simon ordered NOAA-Fisheries in July to produce a new, legally-valid and science-based Salmon Plan (or Biological Opinion) by December 2018. He also ordered the Northwest dam “Action Agencies” to complete a full, fair, and comprehensive NEPA Review and produce an Environmental Impact Statement that updates critical information and considers all reasonable salmon restoration measures, including the removal of the lower Snake River dams – an option that the agencies have steadfastly avoided even analyzing for two decades.

-- Read more on the May 2016 Simon Ruling here. --

1Free the Snake Seattle 12.1.16

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