Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. this Thursday will weigh in on a bill Idaho conservationists have coined the “Sock-it-to-Idaho Act” for its attempt to wipe out progress made on behalf of endangered wild salmon and the people who depend on them.
Before the third annual Free the Snake Flotilla launched Saturday morning, Lewiston native and IRU member Devon Barker-Hicks gave an inspiring speech to encourage people to refocus on building, not tearing things down. “We built the dams,” she said. “We know how to build. Let’s use our collective knowledge to build. Let’s build beaches. Let’s build current. Let’s build shade. Let’s build fish runs.”
Impacted for decades by mining waste, the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River is one of the most polluted rivers in Idaho, and arguably the country. The basin's North Fork, conversely, boasts healthy fisheries and crystal-clear water. They’re two of the most notable rivers in Idaho, one for its immense contamination, the other for its clean water, wild setting and myriad of recreational benefits.
Steelhead are returning to Idaho in record-low numbers and prompting fisheries managers to curtail this fall’s fishing season. According to an Aug. 15 press release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game about 400 steelhead had crossed Lower Granite Dam and entered Idaho by Monday, Aug. 14. The 10-year average for the date is about 6,000 steelhead.