The Columbia and Snake Rivers were once prolific producers of wild steelhead and salmon. It is estimated that the Snake River system alone produced 55 percent of the Columbia Basin’s summer steelhead and 40 percent of its spring/summer Chinook.
But today all Columbia Basin wild steelhead and salmon populations are just a fraction of their historic abundance and are protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
In May, federal Judge Michael Simon rejected the latest in a long series of deficient federal plans to address the impacts on wild steelhead and salmon from federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The latest plan, produced in 2014, was the fifth such plan rejected by a federal court since 2000.
In a strongly worded opinion, Judge Simon found the 2014 plan flawed on multiple grounds.
Judge Simon’s decision ordered the federal hydropower system operating agencies to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), an enormous but critically important undertaking that will take five years to complete. In particular, Judge Simon told the agencies to analyze removal of the four lower Snake River dams as a recovery option for Snake River fish.
This is the first time in 15 years this option will be considered.
The first phase of the EIS process is scoping of the analysis, and the public has an opportunity to weigh in. Fifteen scoping hearings are being held across the region and written comments can also be submitted. The scoping period offers a chance for all interested parties to let the dam management agencies know what they should consider when reviewing the Columbia and Snake river dams in relation to wild steelhead and salmon recovery.
This is a rare opportunity for wild steelhead angler-advocates to call for actions that will dramatically improve the prospects for wild steelhead and salmon in the Columbia and Snake River basins. Please take a few minutes to comment.