By Chris Hager, Executive Director
Chris Hager is the executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders. He was also appointed by Gov. Brown to serve on the Oregon Conservation and Recreation Advisory Committee and volunteers with the local chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. He recently published an opinion piece in the Oregonian regarding Judge Hernandez' decision regarding the Willamette River. It was originally published on August 25, 2020 and is copied below for reference.
A win for the Willamette! U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez is finally holding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers accountable for violating federal requirements to provide adequate fish passage on its Willamette River dams. These dams have had substantial impacts on endangered salmon and steelhead, and the Army Corps’ failure to install fish passage has only furthered their risk of extinction.
Judge Hernandez confirmed what we’ve known for decades: If we are going to save Oregon’s wild fish, we need to restore our rivers and hold federal agencies accountable when they drop the ball – as they are on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Federal agencies recently issued plans that do nothing to help recover abundant Columbia River salmon runs. Instead, they recommended minor tweaks to status quo management that has repeatedly failed to improve salmon runs. Despite spending $17 billion on trying to recover these runs, all we have to show for it is poor fishing seasons and even worse catch rates.
The courts continue to rule in favor of salmon, but salmon continue to swim toward extinction. It’s time for our elected leaders to take charge. It’s time to hold the Corps accountable and find a new approach to protect salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin.