Challenge Oregon Fish Passage Exemption

Columbia Riverkeeper believes healthy fisheries are vital to Tribes, river communities, and Oregon’s culture and economy; they deserve the highest level of protection.

We have serious concerns about recent rule changes that decrease the likelihood that volitional fish passage will be constructed at dams, culverts, and diversions in Oregon, thereby hindering efforts to recover Oregon’s migratory fish.

There are 14 dams on the mainstem of the Columbia River and over 450 dams throughout the entire Columbia Basin. The dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries produce half of the electricity consumed in the Pacific Northwest. These dams significantly impact the river’s flow, water quality, and salmon runs. Dam operators trucking salmon rather than creating fish passages is not an acceptable solution.

Issue: Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) weakened state-wide protections for migratory fish like salmon, steelhead, and lamprey. Instead of requiring that artificial barriers be upgraded to allow fish to swim freely past them, Oregon’s weakened rules can allow dam operators and others to trap salmon and load them into trucks for transport around dams—a process with much lower survival rates.

Status: In September 2023, the Nez Perce Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, along with seven fish advocacy groups, including Columbia Riverkeeper, challenged a December 2022 decision. The litigation is ongoing.

Media Inquiries: Contact Communications & Marketing Director Liz Terhaar (