Hundreds paddle in second #FreeTheSnake Flotilla

A little rain didn’t dampen the spirits of hundreds of people who traveled to the Lewis-Clark Valley of north Idaho and eastern Washington today to paddle in support of a free-flowing lower Snake River.

“This flotilla is about people, and we had people from throughout the Northwest,” said IRU Executive Director Kevin Lewis. “We had average citizens and tribal members; children, adults and grandparents; entrepreneurs and students. What binds these people are the magnificent salmon and steelhead that are endangered because of four dams on the lower Snake River.”

It was the second Free the Snake Flotilla in as many years, and by any estimation attendance grew despite the day’s damp, gray weather. Paddlers gathered at Swallows Park in Clarkston, Wash., and paddled downstream to the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, where a giant floating banner proclaiming “FREE THE SNAKE” was unfurled. Another proclaiming "SAVE OUR SALMON" was held high on poles.

Passing motorists honked their support. People walking the river banks waved and whistled. The hundreds of paddlers held their paddles up high and cheered a chant in support of a free-flowing lower Snake River and restored wild salmon and steelhead.

The flotilla was timely this year because the federal government will soon begin conducting a public process to kick off a new, court-ordered study of the best legal and scientifically-sound methods to restore endangered salmon and steelhead.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the people of the Pacific Northwest and beyond to make their voices heard on behalf of salmon,” Lewis said. “And judging by the enthusiasm at the flotilla today, those voices are going to be clear and loud.”

During introductory remarks before the flotilla longtime salmon advocate and Nez Perce tribe member Rebecca Miles told the crowd that she and others she knows have long believed that removal of the four lower Snake River dams might not happen in their lifetimes.

But that’s changed.

The tide has turned in favor of dam removal, and Miles said she’s now confident that she’ll still be around to see the lower Snake River will run free and wild salmon restored.

Say it today, and yours will be among the many hundreds that said it on the river today: #FreeTheSnake!

The Free the Snake Flotilla was a huge undertaking requiring the support and cooperation of numerous organizations. Notable among them are: IRU, Friends of the Clearwater, Save Our wild Salmon, Nimiipuu Protecting the Enviromment, Earthjustice, Fighting Goliath, and many others.