The four dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington found their way into the national spotlight again today with American Rivers listing it the third most endangered river in the country in 2009.
The Washington, D.C. based conservation group and its partners, including Idaho Rivers United, called on the Obama administration and the Northwest congressional delegation to convene negotiations to work toward a plan to restore the health of the lower Snake River by making it free flowing once again.
"The health of our economy, salmon recovery in the Northwest and quality of life generally depend on bringing people together to take advantage of this opportunity to fix the problems on the lower Snake River," said Tom Stuart, a board member of Idaho Rivers United. "The Snake River basin is the key to salmon recovery in the Columbia River basin and the Northwest. Removing the bottleneck on the lower Snake would open the fine habitat in Central
Idaho and eastern Oregon."
At 900 miles, the rivers between the Sawtooth Valley of Idaho and the Pacific Ocean constitute the longest migration route for salmon and steelhead today in the Columbia Basin. And the Snake River is the heart of salmon country in the Northwest. The Columbia River was once the worlds greatest salmon producer, and the Snake River historically produced more than half of all the chinook salmon and steelhead.
"So the take-home message is simple. Folks who ignore the opportunity lower-Snake dam removal provides write off the biggest single opportunity for salmon recovery in the Columbia system, Stuart said. "The spawning habitat in Idaho is intact and protected. But weve got to deal with the bottleneck. Theres rearing habitat in the ocean, and theres spawning habitat
in the Snake, Clearwater, and Salmon River drainages.
"You cant restore salmon runs in the Columbia basin without dealing assertively with Idaho and the salmon and steelhead runs of the Snake. Its the biggest step the region can take to restore wild salmon, and doing that requires opening up the bottleneck dealing with the lower Snake River dams and reservoirs."