The B-run, larger steelhead, begins next month. They only expect 5,600. The forecast for the A-run isn’t showing up, real run is less than 2/3s the forecast.
Sockeye are having a terrible run this year, 72 through LGD as of yesterday. Possibly 42 will make it to Stanley Basin based on previous average survivability from last dam to Stanley Basin. Chinook had 29,521 through LGD as of yesterday, and the 10-year average is about 75,000.
There’s a contract the former governor obligated this state to through 2022 that prevents this state from advocating for dam breaching or increased spill over the dams. If you’ve ever wondered why the first state to sue the feds and win over what those federal dams were doing to its salmonids now never mentions the fact that the dams kill more than half of the outmigrating salmonids and then kills adult returners in the now lethally hot reservoirs behind those dams each summer, the answer is simple Idaho took the BPA’s money and the cost of that transaction is thus far 11 years of silence on the number one killer of our Snake River salmonids.
In 2008, the Bonneville Power Administration came up with a plan to essentially buy off litigants in the ongoing legal case over threatened and endangered Snake River salmon. The BPA, which markets the electric power generated by the four lower Snake River dams and many other federal dams in the Pacific Northwest, drew up contracts known as the fish accords.
They started as 10-year contracts where a state or a tribe that signed these contracts would receive millions in BPA money to complete mostly habitat improvements on streams where salmonids spawned and reared. For those millions, the states and tribes would no longer fight the biological opinions produced by NOAA (which have been challenged since the mid 1990s and have been determined to be illegal by three different federal judges on several occasions. Those states and tribes also could not advocate for dam breaching nor increased spill over the lower Snake River dams. Idaho, Montana, Washington and several tribes signed the initial fish accords.
Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe did not sign the BPA fish accords contract and they along with several conservation and environmental groups have continued to successfully challenge NOAA’s illegal BiOps and advocate for increased spill and breaching of those dams.
Last fall, Gov. Otter who was leaving office, signed a four-year extension of the fish accords, which have been likened to bribes. Washington did not sign an extension and now you see the state of Washington taking steps to study life after breaching, you see that state taking steps to save Snake River salmon and in so doing save the state’s southern resident orcas that are dying of starvation because Snake River chinook salmon are an essential part of the orcas’ diet.
Contrast that with Idaho, Governor Little has created a salmon recovery task force that he won’t let discuss breaching. Recently the group toured some habitat improvements near Salmon, Idaho, but the problem isn’t in Idaho and can’t be fixed in Idaho. The hydrosystem is almost entirely located outside of Idaho with only the upper part of Lower Granite Reservoir reaching into Idaho in the Lewiston area.
The hydrosystem, the dams and slackwater reservoirs, kill about 60 percent of outmigrating sockeye salmon (25-year average), about 54 percent of outmigrating steelhead (25-year average) and about 51 percent of outmigrating chinook (25-year average). 86.4 percent of the Western Division of the American Fisheries Society said that breaching the Lower Snake River dams is the only sure way to ensure sustainable, fishable populations of wild Snake River salmonids. In other words, breaching would lead to recovery.
Governor Little should rip up that BPA fish accords contract and lead this state to truly fight for its fish before it’s too late. Governor there are only six sockeye thus far in the Stanley Basin. Governor B-run steelhead are in dire need. Poor runs of steelhead and chinook are happening now and have been happening three years in a row. Not that they’ve been great since listing. Break the contract. Stop taking the money. Fight for our fish before it’s too late.
Governor Little ought to show he’s not just four more years of Otter. He can do that by ripping up the fish accords contract and truly fight for our fish. Idaho has got to start truly advocating for the recovery of its salmon and steelhead.
Breaching four lower Snake River dams is how that happens. Until then you’ll see dwindling runs and officials fall over themselves to blame ocean conditions, sea lions, and birds in the estuary. I’m sure they’ll blame salmon sharks at some point, too. But simple math shows that if something kills more than half of something it is by definition the number one killer of that something. The hydrosystem is the number one killer of Snake River salmonids and it is not even close.
Our failed approach to recovery for Snake River salmonids is like a doctor who knows his cardiac patient has four fatal blockages but insists on applying bandages to the superficial cuts on that patient’s limbs rather confront what is killing him.
Tell Governor Little that if we don't stand up for our fish and ask that those dams be breached we will never see our salmon recovered in Idaho. Tell every elected official in Idaho to stand up for our salmon and steelhead. We can't expect salmon to recover if Idaho is not leading the way demanding the necessary action, breaching the lower Snake River dams, be taken. We can't continue the status quo.
Lower Granite Fish Counts since 2009
Year Chinook Jack Chinook Coho Coho Jack Steelhead Sockeye
2009 79,316 88,716 4,629 283 323,697 1,219
2010 164,796 24,598 1,509 393 206,885 2,201
2011 121,354 58,143 5,060 291 183,648 1,502
2012 114,217 27,232 2,433 202 110,675 470
2013 100,019 49,907 2,096 358 107,910 757
2014 154,522 40,645 18,098 553 164,088 2,786
2015 179,131 24,128 1,449 239 139,776 440
2016 108,874 19,959 2,841 329 100,176 816
2017 62,739 18,579 8,178 624 76,798 228
2018 55,369 8,760 2,037 957 53,536 276
2019 (as of 8-15) 23,529 5,992 run has not started 4,382 72
Source Fish Passage Center