About 300 paddlers cheered Saturday morning as the words, “FREE THE SNAKE,” were unfurled in 10-foot-tall block letters across the stagnant waters held back by lower Granite Dam.
The paddlers, including a number of IRU members and staff, converged on the lower Snake to protest four do-nothing dams that consume taxpayer dollars while inflicting an extreme toll on Idaho’s endangered salmon. The so-called Free the Snake Flotilla was designed to help draw attention to one of the country’s biggest ongoing environmental boondoggles.
“It’s amazing to see citizens from throughout the Northwest and across America come together and give a voice to the lower Snake River, which has been silenced for nearly a generation,” said IRU Conservation Director Kevin Lewis. “Idaho’s iconic wild salmon and steelhead need that voice to return to the abundance of the pre-dam era.”
The rally brought together a broad coalition of people from at least five western states in support of removing the four lower Snake River dams and restoring endangered salmon and endangered Puget Sound orcas that depend on salmon for survival.
“People came together today to give a voice to what is perhaps the greatest tragedy occurring right now in the United States regarding native species,” said Brett Haverstick, education and outreach director for Friends of the Clearwater and one of the event’s key organizers. “Today’s actions are no doubt sending a ripple across the country and to the White House.”
Sam Mace, inland Northwest Director of Save Our Wild Salmon and another event co-organizer, has lived in nearby Spokane for nearly 20.
“I was so excited to share one of my favorite spots on the lower Snake with 300 people from across the Northwest,” she said. “It’s clear we’ve got the momentum to get these dams removed.”
Participants in the flotilla gathered at Wawawai Landing on the north bank of Lower Granite Lake, the farthest upstream of the four lower Snake River reservoirs and 3 miles from Lower Granite Dam. After doing a practice formation surrounding the Free the Snake banner at Wawawai, the flotilla paddled 3 miles downstream toward Lower Granite Dam where the main rally in support of a free-flowing lower Snake River was held.
More than 20 years after the first Idaho salmon were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and after more than $13 billion in unnecessary spending and countless dollars in lost recreation revenue, it's time for the government to follow its own laws and do what it takes to recover the Northwest's most iconic species, fish that contribute to the region's economy, spirituality, vitality, art, passion and purpose.
Like Haverstick said.
"It's time to free the Snake."
Check here for additional photos and please get back to me if you’re interested in any of them. Photo credit for the above photos is Greg Stahl/Idaho Rivers United.