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Rethinking the Lower Snake River

A free-flowing Snake River can work for all.

 

 A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was issued Feb. 28 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, and Bonneville Power Administration. A comment period from Feb. 28 - April 13, 2020 invites public input on the DEIS.

 

Reach out to make your concerns known. Together we can find solutions for communities, energy and salmon. 

Residents can maintain the clean, abundant power we all rely on and save iconic salmon and orcas if we rethink how we manage the lower Snake River system. To do that, we’re going to need to imagine a different, more prosperous future for the communities that rely on the lower Snake River system. Let’s consider how farmers, sport-fishers, Tribes, business owners, and families—across Idaho, Washington, and Oregon—can see themselves in this future.

Working together, we can seize the many benefits that a free-flowing Snake River offers us all. We can both create new jobs, more diverse and robust economic activity, and stronger, more resilient communities up and down the river and throughout the watershed. Solutions to prevent wild salmon for extinction requires that we work closely with impacted communities, rebuild local economies, and accelerate the production of new, clean power.

Background:

  • two salmon in waterThe Draft Environmental Impact Statement considers options for future management of federal dams in the Columbia Basin, including four dams on the Lower Snake River. One option would involve removal of these four dams.
  • This DEIS follows five previous management plans that have been rejected by courts as inadequate and illegal for meeting conservation goals.
  • Stakeholders across the region have said they're eager to avoid more litigation and wary of an EIS process that can't deliver the comprehensive solution people are ready to work toward.

 

A comment period from Feb. 28 - April 13, 2020 invites public input on the DEIS. The final Environmental Impact Statement is expected in June of 2020 with adoption of a new plan by September 2020. Stay tuned on NWF channels: NWF Facebook, NWF Twitter, NWF Pacific Region, and NWF Northern Rockies and Prairies Region. 

 

*Public Comment Meeting Update*

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Oregon and Washington, and actions and requests by state and local officials to limit the spread of the virus, we will not be hosting in-person meetings. Teleconferences will be available during the comment period.  Please refer to instructions on when and how to participate.

These are the issues that are shaping the conversation. Let’s learn from each other’s challenges and find smarter solutions. 

Agriculture

The economic and cultural importance of agriculture relating to the lower Snake River dams cannot be understated, however we cannot ignore the economic and cultural value of salmon and fisheries as well. If we don’t restore the Snake River, the science and trends are clear: we could lose these fish forever. We need to find solutions to create vibrant farming AND fishing communities. How do we achieve both? Done responsibly, river restoration could deliver big benefits to local communities and move everyone forward together. This is the conversation we need to be having.

Transport

Barging provides benefits only to some farmers. However, feasible and affordable alternatives to barging on the lower Snake River also exist: rail and road. Smart planning for off-river transportation options can ensure farmers continue to be able to deliver their products to market. Creating policies or subsidies to ensure that transportation remains reliable and affordable is an option we can all support. We need investments to maintain affordable and reliable transportation for farmers today who ship on the lower Snake River.

Energy

If we retain the lower Snake River dams, we will lose Snake River salmon and the Southern Resident orcas that rely on them, and forego one of the nation’s great river restoration opportunities. Alternatively, we can decide to restore the river, which will require a robust plan to ensure our energy supply remains affordable and reliable, and this includes clean and renewable energy and expanded storage. With investments, we represent economic development and job creation opportunities, especially for Inland Northwest communities, if we work together and plan well.

Salmon and Steelhead

The available science is clear: restoring this river is critical to protecting the Snake River salmon and steelhead from extinction and rebuilding the irreplaceable benefits they deliver to the people of our region and nation. Scientists predict that restoring the lower Snake River will lead to between 600,000 and one million Snake River spring Chinook. This does not count the recovery potential to the other imperiled Snake River stocks.

Ecological

The dams and reservoirs have transformed a flowing river into four stagnant, warm pools without current and with increased predators. All contribute to endangering salmon and steelhead, in addition to risks from navigating dam turbines. Climate impacts make threats worse, further warming the pools for many weeks each summer. 

Hot water kills cold water fish but after a temporary disruption to the river, a restored, resilient, free-flowing river delivers huge survival benefits to salmon, lamprey, sturgeon, and other fish and wildlife: natural current, cooler waters, fewer predators, no turbines, and more.

Recreation

Common sense and research both point towards huge improvements in and expansion of recreation opportunities on a restored Snake River. Today, little recreation occurs on the reservoirs downstream from Clarkston/Lewiston. Flowing rivers and fishable salmon and steelhead populations are very rare. Economic research and experience in other regions demonstrates the tremendous economic value of sustainable fisheries and free flowing rivers. 

Tribes

There is very strong support for restoring the lower Snake River — for the river; for salmon, steelhead, and other fish species; and for cultural and land recovery purposes. The dams have harmed the Tribes throughout the region in myriad ways, with negative cultural, economic, and wildlife impacts. Restoring the river and re-exposing inundated lands will require careful work with and by the Tribes to protect sacred sites and cultural resources.

Economics

Snake River habitat restoration creates opportunity. River restoration, with proper planning and investment by stakeholders and sovereigns, including regional policymakers, can lead to significant economic and quality-of-life benefits, with increased job opportunity, development of a restoration economy, an outdoor recreation economy, and expanded clean energy. This will not occur unless Northwest people begin working together to plan and advocate for a better future for salmon and orcas, for BPA and our fishing and farming communities.

 

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