Snake River salmon. Image credit:American Rivers
Now, things are looking up for the river, its communities, and its endangered salmon. A federal judge recently told NOAA Fisheries that its plan for operating dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers – balancing the protection of endangered salmon and electricity production – needs work.
Most notably, the judge said that federal agencies should examine and prepare for removing the lower Snake River dams in case other salmon recovery actions are insufficient.
Obama administration officials were in the Pacific Northwest last week to talk with federal, state and tribal leaders about how best to move forward. There is a tremendous opportunity for the Obama administration and Northwest congressional leaders to lead the charge on a river restoration plan that works for salmon, communities and the region’s economy. Take action to urge the Obama administration to restore the lower Snake River.
For over a decade, American Rivers has been fighting to remove the four dams and restore a free-flowing lower Snake River. This would not only revive the salmon runs and a multi-million dollar fishery, it will eliminate a growing flood threat in Lewiston, Idaho and create an opportunity to modernize the region’s transportation and energy systems.
The Snake is the Columbia River’s largest tributary and the Snake River basin once produced about half of all spring Chinook salmon returning to Columbia basin rivers. More than two million wild salmon and steelhead once returned to spawn in the Snake and its tributaries each year.
Upstream of the four dams on the lower Snake, the river contains the most extensive freshwater salmon habitat in the lower 48. This includes the highest elevation salmon habitat in the world, and some of the most resistant to the effects of climate change.
The benefits the dams now provide can be replaced by other means, such as energy efficiency and increased wind power capacity, while still allowing the Northwest to have affordable, carbon-free energy.
As explained in a March 2009 Northwest Energy Coalition report, Bright Future: How to keep the Northwest's lights on, jobs growing, goods moving and salmon swimming in the era of climate change, the region has sufficient renewable energy and energy efficiency potential to cost-effectively replace the four dams’ energy at the same time as it meets the much larger challenge of reducing regional fossil fuel emissions.
The economic benefits of restoring the lower Snake River and its salmon and steelhead have been estimated in the hundreds of millions thanks to the income it would generate for commercial fishing up and down the Pacific Coast, increased recreational fishing from Astoria, OR to Stanley, ID, and new boating, camping, hiking, and hunting opportunities along the scenic lower Snake River.
Now is the time to restore this legendary river and its salmon, and to ensure the Pacific Northwest has clean energy, strong economy, and high quality of life for generations to come.
Tell President Obama today to restore the lower Snake River!
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