By Sam Mace
In 2021, Washington Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee acknowledged the serious salmon and steelhead crisis in the Snake River basin and the call for bold action to reverse steep fish declines and preserve the jobs, recreation, communities and orca that depend on them. Murray and Inslee committed to develop a long-term plan to restore Snake River fisheries by August 31, 2022.
Scientists, anglers, conservationists and Tribes have long advocated for removal of the four lower Snake River dams to bring salmon and steelhead back to healthy numbers.
As a first step this spring, an effort called the Salmon Initiative will begin exploring options for replacing the benefits the dams provide, including energy, irrigation, and barging in collaboration with stakeholders and Tribes throughout the region. Salmon advocates hope that this process will include studies that have already been done over the past few years and that the process can create a blueprint for doing what the salmon, steelhead and orca ultimately need—restoration of the lower Snake River.
Murray and Inslee have not committed to a plan that includes dam removal, but salmon advocates hope that with enough public support from people who care about these iconic fish, the dream of dam removal and salmon and steelhead recovery will be realized. This Initiative represents the best chance Snake River salmon have ever had for recovery. Once the report is released, there will be a public comment period beginning mid-May. By or before July 31, a final report and action plan will be released. Keep up to date on the Initiative at LSRDoptions.org.
With the right economic investments, restoring the lower Snake River and removing dams will be an economic boon for the Inland Northwest and a positive step for our fisheries, recreation, and river towns. Republican Congressman Mike Simpson from Idaho put forth a draft plan to do just that a year ago, pledging to invest in our region as part of dam removal. Salmon advocates hope that the Murray-Inslee Initiative can build on that approach.
Coming up April 26, Spokane Falls Trout Unlimited is excited to announce that National Trout Unlimited CEO Chris Wood will be giving a keynote talk in Spokane with a focus on both science and the tremendous economic opportunity dam removal can bring to the Inland Northwest.