New Research by Columbia Riverkeeper Undercuts Legislation Aimed at Protecting Obsolete Snake River Dams
August 14, 2017
By Miles Johnson, Clean Water Attorney, Columbia Riverkeeper
If the lower four Snake River dams did not exist, the Lower Snake River in eastern Washington would have been cool enough for salmon migration during the summer of 2015, according to new research by Columbia Riverkeeper.
Summer 2015 was a disaster for sockeye salmon throughout the Columbia and Snake rivers.1 But extreme heat and drought in 2015 also provided a glimpse of how climate change may affect the Columbia and Snake rivers—and what solutions are available.
Columbia Riverkeeper used a peer-reviewed computer model developed by EPA2 to predict potential river temperatures during the summer of 2015. Despite record-breaking air temperatures and drought, a free-flowing Lower Snake River would have remained cooler than 68 °F—the water temperature that seriously impairs salmon migration3—throughout most of that summer.
Check out Riverkeeper’s white paper, resources, and press release.
Riverkeeper’s research suggests that removing the lower Snake River dams could improve conditions for salmon and salmon fishing. But some Members of Congress from Oregon and Washington are trying to block efforts to restore salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers.
A proposed bill, H.R. 3144, would prevent federal agencies from taking court-mandated actions to help endangered salmon migrate past the dams. The bill would also prohibit federal scientists from even studying whether to remove the four obsolete Lower Snake River dams.
H.R. 3144 could undercut years of scientific research and public involvement in salmon recovery. You can help stop this misguided piece of legislation—before President Trump has a chance to sign it into law.
Take Action to Protect Salmon: Sign our petition telling Oregon and Washington elected officials to oppose H.R. 3144 and protect the Columbia and Snake rivers’ iconic salmon runs and fishing communities!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New Research by Columbia Riverkeeper Undermines Federal Legislation Aimed at Rolling Back Salmon Recovery
August 14, 2017 (Hood River, OR) — As some federal legislators move to stifle salmon recovery and science, Columbia Riverkeeper today released new research on how the Snake River dams affect water temperature and salmon migration. In 2015, hot water killed 250,000 sockeye salmon in the Columbia River basin.[i]
“Columbia Riverkeeper’s report highlights why the new, court-ordered federal dam management plan that the Army Corps and other federal agencies are currently writing must contain effective steps to address water temperature, including Snake River dam removal. The new dam management plan should rely on river temperature expertise and data from the EPA, the agency that developed the model on which Columbia Riverkeeper’s report is based,” said Todd True, an attorney at Earthjustice who represents conservation and fishing interests in on-going litigation to restore wild salmon in the Snake and Columbia rivers.
Despite the record-breaking temperatures and fish kills in 2015, Columbia Riverkeeper’s study reveals that the Lower Snake River would have remained cooler than 68 °F—the temperature threshold for salmon migration—if the lower four Snake River dams had been removed. Columbia Riverkeeper used a peer-reviewed computer model developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to predict river temperature in a Snake River without the four lower dams.
Columbia Riverkeeper’s study arrives as some Members of Congress—including Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR)—are pushing legislation to roll back efforts to restore salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers.
Proposed H.R. 3144 would block federal agencies from taking court-mandated steps to help endangered salmon migrate past the dams. The bill would also prohibit federal scientists from even studying whether to remove the four obsolete Lower Snake River dams.
"Columbia Riverkeeper's report shows that restoring the historic Snake River by removing its costly, deadly dams is one of the most beneficial actions we can take to address climate change and protect wild salmon and steelhead facing extinction in the years ahead,” said Sam Mace, Inland Northwest Project Director for the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, Spokane, WA. “H.R. 3144's head-in-the-ground approach to salmon restoration is a death knell for the Snake River’s wild fish; the bill would even prevent studying proven restoration options like lower Snake River dam removal and additional spill.”
About Columbia Riverkeeper
Columbia Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean. For more information go to columbiariverkeeper.org.
Earthjustice represents fishing and conservation plaintiffs in cases to protect and recover Snake and Columbia river salmon. For more information go to earthjustice.org.
About Save Our Wild Salmon
Save Our Wild Salmon is a coalition of conservation, commercial and sportfishing, clean energy, and business associations working together to protect and restore healthy, fishable populations of wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake river basins for the benefit of people and ecosystems. For more information go to wildsalmon.org
[i] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Defendant’s Answer to Complaint in Columbia Riverkeeper et al. v. Scott Pruitt et al., Case No. 2:17-cv-00289-RSM, p.2 (May 15, 2017) (EPA admits that “the death of roughly 250,000 adult sockeye salmon [in 2015] was attributable primarily to warm water”).
1 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Defendant’s Answer to Complaint in Columbia Riverkeeper et al. v. Scott Pruitt et al., Case No. 2:17-cv-00289-RSM, p.2 (May 15, 2017) (admitting that “the death of roughly 250,000 adult sockeye salmon [in 2015] was attributable primarily to warm water”).
2 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Application of a 1-D Heat Budget Model to the Columbia River System, pp.8–10 (2001).
3 National Marine Fisheries Service, Biological Opinion on the EPA’s Proposed Approval of Certain Oregon Water Quality Standards for Temperature and Intergravel Dissolved Oxygen, p.130 (2015); see also U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Summary of Technical Literature Examining the Physiological Effects of Temperature on Salmonids, p.9 (2001).