Columbia Riverkeeper fights to protect salmon from hot water, habitat loss, toxic pollution, and dangerous fossil fuel proposals.
Everyone has the right to eat fish without fear of toxic pollution.
The Columbia was the most productive salmon river on Earth. An estimated 16 million salmon returned to the Columbia from the ocean each year to migrate up to the Columbia. Native American and First Nation people sustainably harvested salmon since time immemorial. Today, a fraction of the historic runs return to the Columbia due to habitat loss, poor water quality, and other factors. Some salmon runs are gone forever, and thirteen populations of Columbia River salmon are threatened with extinction. If we don’t right the ship, it will get worse.
Despite the perilous state of salmon and the multi-billion dollar effort to restore their habitat, the Columbia faces new and continued threats. Fracked gas, coal, and oil companies seek to turn our river into the nation's fossil fuel highway. Toxic chemicals flowing into the Columbia from industry, polluted stormwater, and contaminated sites degrade water quality. Logging, grazing, and intensive agriculture pollute our rivers and degrade habitat. A silent killer—hot water—may be the most dangerous pollutant. The Columbia is too hot for salmon survival. And the temperature continues to rise.
Water temperature over 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees F) is unsafe for salmon. As our climate warms, so do our rivers. On the Columbia and Snake rivers, hydroelectric dams make the heat pollution even worse. Large, shallow reservoirs absorb solar radiation and retain heat. Learn how Riverkeeper is fighting heat pollution.
Strong salmon runs require healthy habitat, from spawning streams to the ocean. Riverkeeper works to protect and restore salmon habitat. This includes protecting the Columbia River estuary from new dredging and industrialization, cleaning up contaminated sites, and working with volunteers to restore riparian habitat.
Riverkeeper sued the federal government and forced eight large dams to reduce toxic oil pollution—a victory that the New York Times called “historic” and the Wall Street Journal called “groundbreaking.” The government agreed to ratchet back on pollution and switch to non-toxic, biodegradable oils where feasible.
Riverkeeper also protects salmon by blocking fossil fuel infrastructure. Fracked gas, oil, and coal companies want to turn the Columbia in our nation’s fossil fuel highway. Salmon are threatened by spills from trains and supertankers transporting petroleum and petrochemicals threaten salmon. Proposed terminals and refineries would also degrade salmon habitat. And fossil fuels feed climate change, which harms salmon today by warming the river.