Salmon Draft Environmental Impact Study Falls Short, Advocates Say
The fight to save Idaho salmon is complex. The mix of ocean temperatures, predatory species and dams in the way of the anadromous fish create a multifaceted problem. But following the release of the federal government’s environmental impact study, collaboration between opponents and proponents of dam-breaching is key to securing a future for the iconic fish.
“The goal of this plan is to get fish off the endangered species list, that’s actually a pretty low bar,” said Justin Hayes, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League. “In Idaho, that means that this plan imagines if it were to succeed, success would look like 20,000 wild steelhead back to Idaho each year. Nobody in Idaho actually thinks that’s the right goal.”
The draft report traces the effect of the dams on the Columbia and Lower Snake rivers on Chinook salmon. The report also sets out a goal to have wild salmon delisted from the list of endangered species. Saving salmon has come to the attention of state politicians in the region, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown have both endorsed breaching the dams. Idaho Gov. Brad Little doesn’t support dam breaching, but he did compile a working group to come up with locally based solutions to the issue.
Jeff Sayre of CHS Primeland, a grain cooperative in Lewiston, said that the collaboration between stakeholders should have started years ago, not when Idaho salmon were in dire straits.
“We should have been doing this 25 years ago instead of going into the courts,” Sayre said.
The Columbia and Lower Snake rivers not only serve as a salmon highway, but also as a major grain shipping thoroughfare, providing passage for more than half of U.S. wheat to foreign sea ports.
The report is not yet finalized, with a comment period lasting through Monday, April 13. For now, however, those trying to save the salmon believe that collaboration between each other is the best bet.
“It’s such a huge thing that we’ve let spiral out of control,” Sayre said. “It’s more of the same of what we’ve seen before.”