It's Time to Restore the Lower Snake River
Salmon and Steelhead are Counting on Us
The Association of Northwest Steelheaders is dedicated to removing the Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental, and Ice Harbor dams on the lower Snake River, which have been decimating endangered fish populations since they were built between 1955-1975. Removing the dams is essential to achieving five main goals:
People have been talking about removing these dams for decades. With over 50 years’ worth of science documenting their negative impacts on endangered fish populations, it is clear that removing these dams would dramatically improve populations and protect them from looming extinction.
The 2020 Draft Environmental Impact Statement that federal agencies prepared to save Columbia and Snake River salmon and steelhead from extinction acknowledged that removing the dams on the lower Snake River would have the greatest increase in endangered fish populations returning to the Snake River Basin each year. And yet, they didn’t recommend breaching these dams as their preferred alternative. Instead, they favored alternatives that only slightly modify existing management strategies – efforts that have not improved salmon or steelhead populations at all over the past 50 years.
Despite spending more than $17 billion in tax dollars to attempt to recover these critical populations over the past 25 years, 2019 salmon returns dropped to historic lows – a clear sign that this trend will continue if we move forward with status quo management.
The Issue at a Glance
The Status Quo Won’t Work
Salmon and steelhead on the Snake River cannot withstand another 25 years of status quo management. Unless we change course now, Snake River salmon and steelhead, as well as southern resident orca whales may be extinct in our lifetimes. This isn't an environmental issue or a business issue, this is an issue that affects all of us as Northwesterners. As a region, we need smarter solutions based on real, relevant, and reliable science.
We need to come together and rethink how we manage the lower Snake River system. We must imagine solutions that benefit salmon, communities, and industries. Farmers, sport-fishers, business owners, and families across Oregon, Washington, and Idaho need to see themselves in this future. It is time to stand together and create a comprehensive and collaborative, community-driven solution that balances our need for healthy rivers with our need for clean energy—a solution that supports prosperous farming and fishing communities, affordable clean power, and abundant salmon and steelhead.
How Dams Threaten Fish Migration
Dams are difficult barriers that endangered fish must pass upstream to reach their spawning grounds. They cause substantial stress to the fish and can result in injury, reducing their overall fitness and ability to successfully complete the 900+ mile journey.
Dams reduce the speed that water flows through the Snake and Columbia River systems, making the time it takes these endangered fish to migrate much longer, which requires them to obtain more nutrition to sustain themselves.
Dams increase the water temperature of the river, sometimes above the 70-degree threshold that salmon and steelhead can survive in.
Predators such as sea lions have become accustomed to preying on juvenile salmon that are released below the dam through fish bypass systems, increasing the threats that salmon face on this journey.
How You Can Get Involved
What folks are saying about Snake River salmon and steelhead
Breaching the Lower Snake River dams “is the most certain and robust solution to SR salmon and steelhead recovery. No other action has the potential to improve overall survival two to three-fold and simultaneously address both the orca and salmon recovery dilemma”
“We need to stop thinking about what currently exists and ask ourselves, ‘What do we want the Northwest to look like in 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years?”
“Historically, the Columbia River Basin was the largest salmon producing river system in the world…we are now struggling at about one percent of their historical potential. That is inexcusable for a system that is so iconic, for a species that is so iconic, for a system that is so magnificent.”
“Communities must have the opportunity to collaboratively develop a transition plan to ensure the region’s needs will continue to be met. We can work together to ensure federal and state investments would replace the dams’ benefits and help impacted communities. We must insist that the people who depend on the lower Snake River have a say in its future. We must insist on a path forward that works for salmon and people.”