That all changed when we inserted the concrete monoliths that are the lower four Snake River dams smack dab in the migration corridor of these remarkable fish that connect the mountains of Idaho to the waters of Pacific Ocean. Lower Granite Dam is actually regarded to increase flood risk to Lewiston, Idaho. The Snake River Basin in Idaho contains the best remaining spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead in the lower 48. They are economically unsustainable now. And while modifying the ocean is not within our immediate control, we have modified their migratory path. Europeans were farming wheat along the Lower Snake as early as the late 1800’s. Wild salmon advocates, tribal representatives and renewable energy advocates, who support removing the four Lower Snake River dams in southeastern Washington, say this decision will hurt salmon and the orcas that depend on them for food. Hatcheries can manufacture fish in concrete tanks but create a false sense of abundance (comprising 80 percent of the fish in some years) and hurt wild fish. When summer temperatures spiked, the Walla Walla Districts scientist, biologists and engineers responded by developing fish cooling systems at Lower Granite Dam and Little Goose Dam on the Snake River. Lower Snake River Dams: Economic Tradeoffs of Removal Economic Tradeoffs of Removing the Lower Snake River Dams The debate regarding the potential removal of the four Lower Snake River dams in Washington has been ongoing for over two decades, but much of the existing information is either outdated or incomplete. Federal agencies just released a new plan to recover endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers using only slightly different tactics than what were already in place. They are part of the problematic aging U.S. infrastructure that requires more money for maintenance every year. So reads a remarkable letter recently sent to the governors of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana by 10 of the finest and most-respected salmon and steelhead scientists in the world. Due to the lack of water storage, the dams also don't offer much in the way of irrigation. We can use our creativity and ingenuity to make whole all the various communities of place and communities of interest dependent on the four lower Snake River dams. Harvest, however, has been sharply curtailed. Lately, some have tried to point to ocean conditions as the reason for the decline of Northwest salmon. Get your brand-new Scott Centric rod and Cheeky Launch reel. By Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. We understand that not everyone sees it the way we do. The science is clear. However, removal of the dams has … With a little leadership and creativity, we can extend irrigation infrastructure to withdraw water from a free-flowing river. The four dams on the lower Snake River are part of a vast and complex hydroelectric power system operated by the federal government in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. At the heart of this issue are the cumulative, negative impacts of the four dams on the lower Snake River, a major Columbia River tributary, which has severed fish passage to rich spawning habitats in Idaho. Federal agencies just released a new plan to recover endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The Fishing Wire® 2020 / All Rights Reserved, “School of Fish” Gets New Presenting Sponsor, Arkansas Stocks Baitfish to Feed Hungry Gamefish. These dams all have fish ladders, shipping locks and are some of the most fish friendly projects in the world. We use cookies on our website to give you the most relevant experience by remembering your preferences and repeat visits. As with most conservation issues, we do not have to choose between recovering salmon and maintaining and improving the socio-economic well-being of those whose livelihoods depend on the dams. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. Lower Granite Lock and Dam is a concrete gravity run-of-the-river dam in the northwest United States. Climate change is adding another challenge as warming water temperatures in the reservoirs behind the dams threaten salmon which depend on cold water and snowmelt. © 2021 Trout Unlimited. The letter continues, “Every Snake River salmon and steelhead population is listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), with recent returns consistently below the threshold needed to avoid extinction. The lower Snake River dams’ powerhouses save over 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere each year. Lower Snake River dam removal. The fish need safe access to these habitats so that populations can thrive when conditions are good and survive poor ocean conditions. Dam removal, however, must be part of a comprehensive recovery plan that includes restoring and protecting habitat, improving hatchery and fishery management, and reducing predation. Further downstream are Little Goose Dam, Lower Monumental Dam, and Ice Harbor Dam. The salmon populations in Idaho were so abundant that in the 1950s, before the construction of the four lower Snake River dams, recreational anglers on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River could catch and keep up to two salmon a day over a season that stretched months. This is the Oregon Way – coming together on tough issues to achieve lasting change. The salmon populations in Idaho were so abundant that in the 1950s, before the construction of the four lower Snake River dams, recreational anglers on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River could catch and keep up to two salmon a day over a season that stretched months. The four lower Snake River dams are important to the Northwest’s power needs, provide important support for the transmission system and help keep our system low in carbon emissions. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon in 2016 ordered dam managers to consider removing or altering the four Lower Snake River dams. The lower Snake River dams have enabled large quantities of grain to be shipped by barge from Lewiston, Idaho all the way to the mouth of the Columbia River, 465 miles away, making the ninth-largest city in the nation’s 39th most populous state the West Coast’s farthest-inland port. Since this time the Lower Snake River has been used as a means for getting products to markets. Lower Granite Dam, one of the four dams on the Lower Snake River that are driving all remaining Snake River salmon toward extinction. The scientists conclude their letter by asking for the four governors’ “leadership to develop a comprehensive solution that includes removing the lower Snake River dams so that the extraordinary potential of the Snake River Basin for people and fish can be realized.”. The lower Snake River dams produce roughly 1,100 average megawatts of carbon-free electricity compared to the Klamath River dam’s 78 average megawatts. Privacy policy — Terms & conditions — Call us toll free: 1-800-834-2419, My Health Stream: Landowner Partner Materials. The Snake River basin and where the salmon (used to, and again, will) swim. Pacific lamprey, another anadromous species of major significance to tribes and the freshwater and marine ecosystem, have also declined precipitously.”. We can replace barge traffic on the reservoirs behind the dams with rail. Snake River-born sockeye comprised about 4,069 of the m… The one thing we cannot do is expect Snake River salmon to flourish when they have to pass through 140 miles of predator-filled slackwater reservoirs and over four concrete walls to get to home. Whether the dams … Large public enterprises including Bonneville and the Corps would change how they do business. Restoring the lower Snake River by removing the four dams that block its flow would precipitate changes in the region’s physical infrastructure, electric grid operations, carbon emissions, grain transport, irrigation, recreation, fish habitat, and riverine and marine ecosystems. The Lower Snake River Project features four locks and dams in the state of Washington: Ice Harbor Dam, Lower Monumental Dam, Little Goose Dam, and Lower Granite Dam. “It is our collective opinion, based on overwhelming scientific evidence, that restoration of a free-flowing lower Snake River is essential to recovering wild Pacific salmon and steelhead in the basin.”. The Legislature provided funding to the governor’s office in the 2019-21 operating budget to conduct a stakeholder process to understand the views of Washingtonians on breaching and removing, or retaining, the lower Snake River dams. As the scientists’ letter says, “Ocean conditions fluctuate” and salmon have evolved with changing ocean conditions for eons. The Snake River Basin in Idaho contains the best remaining spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead in the lower 48. Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It’s simply a matter of time before the federal agencies admit it. The dams became operational between 1961 and 1975. The fish need safe access to these habitats so that populations can thrive when conditions are good and survive poor ocean conditions. The one thing we cannot do is expect Snake River salmon to flourish when they have to pass through 140 miles of predator-filled slackwater reservoirs and over four concrete walls to get to home. The new plan says that’s the best option for fish – but too expensive in terms of irrigation, transportation and power generation. The lower four Snake River dams must come down. Today, populations of salmon in the Middle Fork—some of the finest salmon habitat in the world—are at about 1 percent of their historic numbers. Climate change is affecting the ocean, and conditions are deteriorating in both fresh and salt water. We also use third-party cookies that help us analyze and understand how you use this website. The salmon populations in Idaho were so abundant that in the 1950s, before the construction of the four lower Snake River dams, recreational anglers on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River could catch and keep up to two salmon a day over a season that stretched months. Opened 46 years ago in 1975, the dam is located 22 miles (35 km) south of Colfax and 35 miles (56 km) north of Pomeroy. This is even though we have spent over $17 billion as a nation to help recover Snake and Columbia river steelhead and salmon. Lately, some have tried to point to ocean conditions as the reason for the decline of Northwest salmon. A Long Legal Fight for the River Over the past 25 years, conservation and fishing groups have gone to court challenging federal agency hydropower systems operation plans that failed to protect threatened and endangered salmon in the Columbia River basin. Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. We can create economic opportunity for the towns dependent on the reservoirs. The draft report, Lower Snake River Dams Stakeholder Engagement Report, is available for public comment until January 24, 2020. A total of 510,705 sockeye that originated in numerous watersheds passed Bonneville Dam on the lower Columbia River. The scientists say that “dam breaching is the essential cornerstone of a comprehensive, effective recovery strategy.” They also point out that “the weight of scientific evidence demonstrates there is no chance of restoring abundant, healthy and harvestable Snake River salmon and steelhead with the lower Snake River dams in place.”. The lower Snake River dams are all run-of-river dams, which means they don't store water, and thus don't provide any flood control. By clicking “Accept”, you consent to the use of ALL the cookies. Climate change is affecting the ocean, and conditions are deteriorating in both fresh and salt water. In the early days skilled steamboat operators carefully navigated both the Columbia and Lower Snake rivers in order to transport wheat and other goods to Portland. Since 1975 when the eight dams (four on the lower Columbia River and four on the lower Snake River) were completed, return rates have only rarely exceeded the 2 percent survival minimum. Harvest, however, has been sharply curtailed. These cookies do not store any personal information. And while modifying the ocean is not within our immediate control, we have modified their migratory path. The dams’ advocates often argue the salmon’s problems are overharvest, poor habitat and hatcheries. Hatcheries can manufacture fish in concrete tanks but create a false sense of abundance (comprising 80 percent of the fish in some years) and hurt wild fish. The lower four Snake River dams must come down. The 4 Snake River Dams are located in Washington State, they are, dam 1 = Ice Harbor Dam, Lock and Lake Sacajawea, dam 2 = Lower Monumental Dam, Lock and Lake Herbert G.West, dam 3 = Little Goose Dam, Lock and Lake Bryan, dam 4 = Lower Granite Dam, Lock and Lower Granite Lake. On the lower Snake River in southeastern Washington, it bridges Whitman and Garfield counties. Take action - tell your elected officials we need a new approach. These cookies will be stored in your browser only with your consent. The dams’ advocates often argue the salmon’s problems are overharvest, poor habitat and hatcheries. Today, populations of salmon in the Middle Fork—some of the finest salmon habitat in the world—are at about 1 percent of their historic numbers. We can find replacement power to make up for the relatively small amount provided to the region by the four lower Snake River hydropower dams. Idaho brags five-star wilderness-quality habitat. During 2015 fish perished throughout the West in rivers with and without dams due to elevated water temperatures. The lower Snake River dams have touched on each of these topics since they were constructed over 40 years ago. Filed Under: Columbia River, snake river dams, Snake River salmon and steelhead. So reads a remarkable letter recently sent to the governors of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana by 10 of the finest and most-respected salmon and steelhead scientists in the world. From 1994 to 2004, they ranged from 0.35 to 2.5 percent, exceeding 2 percent in just a single year. “It is our collective opinion, based on overwhelming scientific evidence, that restoration of a free-flowing lower Snake River is essential to recovering wild Pacific salmon and steelhead in the basin.”. They have boosted the economy and local communities in southeast Washington but have also harmed tribal and fishing communities throughout the Pacific Northwest. Supporters of retaining the lower Snake River dams warn that if they are removed, the hydropower dams on the Columbia between Washington and … The science is clear. We can create economic opportunity for the towns dependent on the reservoirs. The letter continues, “Every Snake River salmon and steelhead population is listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), with recent returns consistently below the threshold needed to avoid extinction. lower Snake River dams is the single most important step we can take to recover abundant, fishable and harvestable Snake River salmon and steelhead. The Snake River basin and where the salmon (used to, and again, will) swim. It … Brown Chooses Litigation Over Collaboration. We can make improvements to the power grid to assure the reliability of affordable power to cities and towns across the Northwest. As with most conservation issues, we do not have to choose between recovering salmon and maintaining and improving the socio-economic well-being of those whose livelihoods depend on the dams. You also have the option to opt-out of these cookies. Idaho brags five-star wilderness-quality habitat. As the scientists’ letter says, “Ocean conditions fluctuate” and salmon have evolved with changing ocean conditions for eons. If the dams were breached or removed, it would take several coal- or gas-fired power plants to replace them. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website. Agriculture, Salmon, and the Snake River Dams . Bonneville Power Administration bears almost all the costs of maintaining these functions, except for navigation, which is paid for by the federal government (taxes). With a little leadership and creativity, we can extend irrigation infrastructure to withdraw water from a free-flowing river. We can make improvements to the power grid to assure the reliability of affordable power to cities and towns across the Northwest. This website uses cookies to improve your experience while you navigate through the website. “The science is clear that removing the earthen portions of the four lower Snake River dams is the most certain and robust solution to Snake River salmon and steelhead recovery,” Brown wrote. The scientists conclude their letter by asking for the four governors’ “leadership to develop a comprehensive solution that includes removing the lower Snake River dams so that the extraordinary potential of the Snake River Basin for people and fish can be realized.”. This is even though we have spent over $17 billion as a nation to help recover Snake and Columbia river steelhead and salmon. We can use our creativity and ingenuity to make whole all the various communities of place and communities of interest dependent on the four lower Snake River dams. The four Lower Snake dams were the last built in the federal Columbia hydropower system. Learn more about the Snake River dams’ role in … Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. Today the lower Snake River dams (LSRDs) preform various functions; providing hydropower, navigation, irrigation and fish passage. Myth 9: Lower Snake River dam removal will cause an increase in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. We can replace barge traffic on the reservoirs behind the dams with rail. Free-flowing … On Snake River, Gov. These dams will be breached in the future due to the economics. For millennia, salmon have reared in the mountains of Idaho, been pushed by spring flows to the ocean, grown, and then returned to the very streams where they were born to continue the cycle. 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