Wednesday press conference to feature perspectives on river restoration and salmon recovery

The lower Snake River will take center stage Wednesday afternoon and evening in Lewiston, where the Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will host an open house to seek public input on developing a new lawful, science-based plan to prevent extinction of wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Advocates for a free-flowing lower Snake River and wild salmon restoration will host a press conference at 4 p.m. in the Port 2 Conference Room at the Red Lion Hotel.

Residents of Lewiston and surrounding areas who are negatively impacted by dams on the lower Snake River—anglers, small businesses, rate payers, tax payers and others— will then attend the federal open house, which is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at the Red Lion Hotel in the hotel’s Seaport Room.

The meeting is one of many scheduled in the wake of a U.S. District Court ruling last May that sent dam operators back to the drawing board and set a new planning process in motion. Finding in favor of fishing businesses, conservation groups, clean energy advocates, the State of Oregon, and the Nez Perce Tribe, the decision rejected the federal agencies’ previous salmon restoration plan as illegal, inadequate and unrealistic – especially in the face of mounting climate impacts.

Advocates for a free-flowing lower Snake River will urge federal agencies to initiate a new approach by removing four high-cost, low-value dams. Fisheries biologists have long highlighted this action as the single most beneficial solution to restore dwindling salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River basin. Wild salmon and steelhead are a valuable and cherished resource and a part of the natural heritage across the Northwest – particularly for fishermen who use and enjoy the Clearwater, Lochsa and other tributaries to the Snake River.

The Pacific Northwest is already generating more electricity than it needs, and the modest amount of power produced by the four lower Snake River dams can be replaced with climate-friendly renewables. 

Following are comments from several regional leaders for lower Snake River restoration and salmon recovery:

Gary Macfarlane, Friends of the Clearwater executive director

“The lower four Snake River dams must come out if the B-runs of wild steelhead in the Clearwater are to survive. The huge fish can’t wait for dithering by the federal agencies in charge of the system of dams. Besides, these four white elephants are money sinks and an economic liability to U.S. citizens.”

Kevin Lewis, Idaho Rivers United executive director

“The government has been failing the people of Idaho and the Pacific Northwest for two decades and through five failed attempts to write a legal and biologically-sound plan to keep Idaho’s endangered salmon from going extinct. 

“Lower Snake River restoration will energize Idaho’s economy. North central Idaho trails all other regions of the state in economic growth. Numerous studies show that increased salmon reuns would add hundreds of millions of dollars to north central and central Idaho in angling alone.”

Linwood Laughy, Kooskia resident

“Freight transportation on the lower Snake River waterway has declined steadily for at least the past 20 years. Anyone who claims otherwise is not telling the truth. Grain is practically the only product still shipped on the river, heavily subsidized by taxpayers and electricity rate payers. If grain growers had to pay even a quarter of the cost of operating and maintaining this waterway, barging would quickly cease to exist.

“Having the Corps of Engineers conduct a five-year study on the future of the lower Snake River dams while funding a propaganda campaign in support of those dams is a public insult and waste of taxpayer money.