Terrible bill in U.S. House lies about size of salmon runs in attempt to thwart public process mandated by court ruling over fifth illegal BiOp
‘Sock-it-to-Idaho Act’ up for D.C. hearing this week
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.
On Thursday, Oct. 12, the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans will hold a hearing on H.R. 3144, a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. and cosponsored by Jamie Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Kurt Scrader, D-Ore.
“This bill is a death warrant for endangered salmon,” said IRU Executive Director Kevin Lewis. “Idaho’s iconic salmon have been teetering on the brink of extinction for more than 25 years with little progress toward recovery. Inviting Congress to ignore a massive body of scientific work that identifies the real causes of salmon decline is unconscionable. This bill should be dead on arrival.”
H.R. 3144 is aimed at rulings by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon. It would, first, overturn Simon’s opinion that federal agencies’ 2014 Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion is illegal and enshrine the illegal document until 2022. Second, it would prevent expansion of spring spill, which Simon ordered in April 2017 to help salmon survive the perilous journey through eight federal dams while deliberations about the dams are ongoing.
“The U.S. District Court required federal agencies in charge of the Columbia-Snake hydro-system to consider new alternatives in a publicly involved process that is already underway,” said Zack Waterman, director of the Idaho Sierra Club. “If this bill passes, it would undermine the judiciary, halt this public process, and prevent federal agencies from even considering alternatives to the failing status quo.”
Salmon communities will be represented at the hearing by Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and a longtime ally of Idaho salmon groups. Hamilton plans to emphasize the economic contributions that recreational fishing make to the Pacific Northwest, as well as underscore just how bad for wild salmon H.R. 3144 would be.
“Business as usual has already cost regional energy consumers and taxpayers more than $16 billion and has yet to recover a single endangered salmon population,” Waterman said. “It’s in everyone’s interest to let this public process move forward and consider much needed alternatives.”
More details about the hearing:
Water, Oceans and Power Subcommittee (for the House Natural Resources Committee)
Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017
Text of H.R. 3144:
Five victories in court, five illegal federal recovery plans thrown out; no closer to real wild Snake River salmon and steelhead recovery
May 4, 2016-This ruling comes as no surprise to me, nor any reader of this blog. I told you the outcome when the case was filed. No matter that a new judge was on the case, the law is clear, the facts haven't changed in favor of dams and wild salmon being compatible. And when the law is clear, and the facts still support the continued failed recovery of wild salmon, the outcome would only be in doubt if the judge was derelict in his duty. And that's typically not going to be the case.
So, why the somber headline? It is the fifth time we've dragged NOAA and the "inaction agencies" into court and it's the fifth time we've beaten them. And wild salmon and steelhead of the Snake River are no nearer recovery today than they were yesterday or 20 years ago or 25 years ago. The judge gave the action agencies another two years to produce what will likely be another illegal biop and wild salmon and steelhead in the Snake River Basin will be two years closer to extinction.
Do you want a legal biop? Breach four dams on the lower Snake River and voila, you've got a legal BiOp. I firmly believe that and 85 percent of the fisheries biologists in Pacific Northwest have a very similar opinion. But that 15 cents those dams earn over and above the billions we put into them will keep the action agencies from breaching. That and the incredible industry that is ratepayer and taxpayer dollars that now fund all walks of life in the Pacific Northwest on band-aid habitat projects that are continually viewed by every judge to not be enough.
Don't let this fifth victory in court be as hollow as the last four. Stop being the King of Ephyra, Sisyphus, stop rolling the boulder to the top only to watch it roll back down again and again and again and again and...
There is only one way for the wild salmon and steelhead of the Snake River Basin to recover and that is by breaching those four lower Snake River dams. I understand some of you are against breaching those dams, and you have a legitimate argument provided you acknowledge the fact that as long as those dams are in place the extinction of wild salmon and steelhead in the Snake River Basin, or should you choose the extirpation of them, is inevitable. We cannot have wild salmon and steelhead in perpetuity with those dams. If you know that and still argue to keep the dams, hey, we disagree, but at least you hold a legitimate position.
By the way, NOAA and the action agencies don't hold that legitimate position. They believe we can have wild salmon and steelhead and the dams, and they are wrong. Completely and utterly so. They hold an illegitimate position, a position that has now been struck down five times in federal court, and now by a brand new judge.
So, unless you are like so many other Americans ready to believe a conspiracy exists anywhere your ideology has the unpleasant meeting with reality, perhaps you understand why I'm not really celebrating this victory. I knew it was coming from the day it was filed. I also knew that the judge would give the action agencies more time and I also know that they are going to do what they've done in the past and that is change a couple of commas and add more habitat projects where they buy off more and more constituents and publish yet another illegal BiOp that will again be challenged in court and it will again be declared illegal and we'll be that much closer to extinction, extirpation of wild salmon and steelhead in the Snake River Basin.
Salmon advocates pan Walla Walla Corps Commander remarks about Lower Snake River dam benefits
Only wild fish matter when it comes to removal from the Endangered Species List
1. Before development of the Columbia/Snake River Basin, the annual salmon and steelhead runs on the Columbia and Snake Rivers were estimated to be 10-16 million wild fish. That's the number the Northwest Council adopted in 1987 that was arrived at by using lower river commercial catch records. The council also did an alternative method of lower river commercial catch plus upriver Indian and settler catch and came up with 12.5 to 13 million adult fish returning each year. Historically, about half of those wild salmonids were destined for the Snake River.
Proud to again sponsor the Free the Snake Flotilla Sept. 8-9, 2017
Actual in-river survival for juvenile salmon and steelhead
The Fish Passage Center has the actual juvenile survival numbers through the hydrosystem. The Corps of Engineers has said juvenile salmonid survival is 95 percent, the following numbers from the Fish Passage Center when compared to the Corps stated survival percentage do not match up. Why?
Juvenile Salmon/Steelhead In-River Survival Lower Granite Dam to Bonneville Dam
(source Fish Passage Center)
Wild Chinook Wild Steelhead
1994 20 percent
1995 41 percent
1996 44 percent
1997 51 percent 1997 52 percent
1998 61 percent 1998 54 percent
1999 59 percent 1999 45 percent
2000 48 percent 2000 30 percent
2001 23 percent 2001 4 percent
2002 61 percent 2002 52 percent
2003 60 percent 2003 37 percent
2004 40 percent 2004 18 percent
2005 48 percent 2005 25 percent
2006 57 percent 2006 58 percent
2007 60 percent 2007 38 percent
2008 66 percent 2008 49 percent
2009 56 percent 2009 70 percent
2010 60 percent 2010 60 percent
2011 60 percent 2011 76 percent
2012 57 percent 2012 59 percent
2013 55 percent 2013 56 percent
About the Salmon Blog Author
Michael Wells is an award winning journalist and photographer living in Idaho. He moved out west to insert himself in the salmon narrative, yeah, well the scenery is prettier than back east, too. He never had designs on writing about salmon for the rest of his life, so breach some dams already so he can get on with his life. He is a member of Trout Unlimited, Idaho Rivers United, Idaho Conservation League, Friends of the Clearwater, and Wilderness Watch. This blog also shares information from Friends of the Clearwater, Save Our Wild Salmon and the Western Watersheds Project when the work they are doing coincides with the overall goal of this blog (which is pretty much all the time), which is to simply have mankind get out of the way enough for wild salmon and steelhead of the Snake River Basin to recover to the point of such an abundance that we no longer revere them. He can be reached at salmonblog AT yahoo DOT com.
Snake River Links
Visit our sister site www.snakeriversalmon.com for another blog and information on Snake River Salmon.
Visit Snake River Resurrection a coalition of diverse interests—anglers, recreationists, engineers, families, businesses and economists—advocating for fact-based, economically-sensible use of the lower Snake River. They are a force for truth and a catalyst for change, and they hold local, state and federal government agencies accountable for serving the public interest and protecting the public purse. They support revitalizing local economies, sustaining natural resources, preventing extinction of iconic Northwest species, and returning the lower Snake River to its rightful owners: the American people.
Visit Snake River Salmon Solutions where retired fisheries biologist Bert Bowler is giving Snake River salmon and steelhead a voice.
Visit Idaho Rivers United whose mission is to protect and restore the rivers of Idaho.
Visit the Idaho Conservation League who works to protect Idaho's environment
Visit Trout Unlimited an organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.
Visit The Sierra Club America's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.
Visit The Friends of the Clearwater site where the friends defends the Idaho Clearwater Bioregion's wildlands and biodiversity through a forest watch program, litigation, grassroots public involvement, outreach, and education on the eastern edge of the Palouse, where the doug fir and cedar forests meet the rolling hills.
Visit Save Our Wild Salmon a nationwide coalition of conservation organizations, commercial and sportsfishing associations, businesses, river groups, and taxpayer advocates working collectively to restore self-sustaining, abundant, and harvestable populations of wild salmon and steelhead to rivers, streams and oceans of the Pacific Salmon states.
Visit Wilderness Watch is the only national organization whose sole focus is the preservation and proper stewardship of lands and rivers included in the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and National Wild & Scenic Rivers System (NWSRS).
Visit the Snake River Salmon Society, Supporting political leadership to restore wild salmon, steelhead, and native fish to the Snake River Basin, for the benefit of all in the Northwest.
Visit the Northwest Power and Conservation Council that strikes a balance between energy and the environment in the Columbia River Basin.
Visit the Fish Passage site for daily fish counts at dams
Visit the American Rivers site an organization dedicated to protecting our rivers and clean water
Visit the Native Fish Society who advocate for the conservation, protection and restoration of native fish populations in the Pacific Northwest.
Snake River Sockeye Salmon Returns by the numbers
Snake River Spring/Summer Chinook Returns by the numbers
Snake River Steelhead Returns by the numbers
Snake River Fall Chinook Returns by the numbers
It now takes 10 years to get back the same number of fish that used to return to the Columbia/Snake River Basin. And today, 75-80 percent or more of the returning fish are hatchery fish. Wild salmon and steelhead are endangered and threatened and only their recovery matters if they are to be removed from the Endangered Species List.