Repeat of 2015 salmon disaster unacceptable

The sockeye salmon die-off of 2015 is a disaster that must be prevented in the future.

That’s the gist of a letter sent today to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from more than a dozen regional conservation organizations and more than 20 Great Old Broads for Wilderness chapters.

“The Army Corps’ inability to protect returning adult salmon from high water temperatures caused the unauthorized ‘take’ of ESA-listed Snake River sockeye in 2015,” the signatories state. “Similar fish kills in 2016 or 2017 could push Snake River sockeye to the brink of extinction and erase progress made to recover this distinct population.”

In 2015 low snowpack combined with a system of reservoirs on the Columbia and lower Snake rivers caused river temperatures to soar and killed 96 percent of adult sockeye salmon before they arrived at Lower Granite Dam, the last of eight dams endangered salmon must pass before swimming into Idaho.

“Despite this year’s promising snowpack, conditions can change rapidly, and we could easily be in a similar situation to 2015,” said IRU Conservation Director Kevin Lewis. “The Corps actions in 2015 were unconscionable, and citizens have a right to expect more going forward.”