By Norm Ritchie, Board Member
Norm Ritchie is an Association of Northwest Steelheaders board member living in Rockaway Beach, Oregon. He recently published an opinion piece in the Astorian on May 22, 2021 highlighting the need for our legislators to come together and have hard conversations in order to find a solution to save wild salmon and steelhead populations from extinction.
F rom last year's record-breaking fire season, to bad ocean conditions, hotter summers and reduced snowpack, it's obvious that the Pacific Northwest and coastal climates are changing.
Earlier this year, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries projected that climate change could cause already low survival rates for Snake River spring Chinook to plummet.
We need urgent actions to counteract the fish-killing effects of warming oceans and reduced river flows. We need to make bold actions and significant investments where we have management control: Hydropower and habitat.
The Snake River basin represents the coldest, most undisturbed habitat in the lower 48 states: 30,000 miles of incredibly important high-elevation, cold-water spawning refuge in a warmer, drier future.
Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of the fish spawned in this pristine habitat are able to return because of the devastating impacts of the four lower Snake River dams.
We are at the crossroads of a climate and extinction crisis. Our salmon do not have any more time to wait. Do we want to tell our grandchildren we let salmon go extinct? Or do we want a future with abundant, fishable salmon runs that support businesses and unforgettable experiences?
It is time to remove the four dams. U.S Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, are ready to have tough conversations to find comprehensive solutions for this complex, pervasive issue. Other regional elected officials need to get involved in crafting a legislative solution that doubles wild salmon returns, and provides stability to river-dependent communities.