2. Today, the average Columbia/Snake River total run of salmon and steelhead (hatchery and wild fish) is about 10 percent of the historical high average and today’s runs are made up of roughly 80 percent hatchery fish and 20 percent wild fish. So about an average of 320,000 wild salmonids return to the Columbia/Snake Basin each year. That is about 2 percent of the historical run of 16 million fish and about 3.2 percent of the low historical run estimate of 10 million wild salmonids.
3. 10-year averages for total salmon/steelhead run through Lower Granite Dam. Chinook salmon total 2007-2016 consisted of 1,533,719 Chinook (adult and jack, all races Sp/Su/Fa) for an average of 153,372 chinook through Lower Granite Dam each year. Coho salmon (went extinct in the Snake River in 1986, Nez Perce Tribe used coho eggs from coastal streams to bring coho salmon back to the Snake River Basin) total 2007-2016 consisted of 48,331 coho salmon for an annual average of 4,833 coho salmon. There were 1,670,453 hatchery steelhead cross over Lower Granite Dam from 2007-2016 for an annual average of 167,045. For comparison, there have been 8,360 total hatchery steelhead cross over Lower Granite Dam in 2017, but the number is misleading because about 5,500 of those fish were from last year’s run that overwintered below Lower Granite Dam. Either way, the steelhead run this year is historically low. There were 442,716 wild steelhead pass over Lower Granite Dam from 2007-2016 for an annual average of 44,271 wild steelhead. This year 3,657 wild steelhead have passed over Lower Granite Dam, but about 2,200 of those fish were from last year’s run. Either way, this year’s wild steelhead run in the Snake River should serve as a powerful reminder that we are not doing enough to save wild salmonids in the Snake River Basin. There have been 11,152 sockeye salmon pass over the Lower Granite Dam from 2007-2016 for an annual average of 1,115 sockeye. Sockeye remain the most endangered salmonid in the Snake River Basin.
4. For endangered and threatened wild salmon and steelhead of the Snake River Basin to be removed from the Endangered Species List we need to have smolt-to-adult return rates (SARs) of 2-6 percent for eight consecutive years. To avoid extinction of wild Snake River salmon and steelhead, a smolt-to-adult return rate (SAR) of 1 percent would need to be achieved. SARs in the 2-6 percent range for eight consecutive years would constitute recovery of endangered wild salmon and steelhead. SARs for hatchery fish do not matter in the quest to recover wild salmonids and one day remove them from the Endangered Species List.
5. All but one (Ice Harbor Dam) lower Snake River dams were not operational before 1969.
Snake River spring/summer chinook smolt-to-adult return rate (SAR) was 4.3 percent from 1964-1969. From 1994-1999 the SARs for Snake River salmonids was 1 percent, since 2000 it is 1.1 percent, far below the minimum 2 percent in the target 2-6 percent SAR required for eight consecutive years to constitute recovery. Wild spring/summer chinook met the 2 percent minimum in 1999 and 2008. From 2006-2015 the wild spring/summer chinook SAR in the Snake River Basin is 0.88 percent. That SAR is below the 1 percent minimum threshold for survival. From 1964-1969, wild steelhead in the Snake River Basin enjoyed a 7.2 percent SAR. From 1990-1999 wild steelhead SAR was 1.9 percent. From 2000-2014, wild steelhead had a 2.5 percent SAR, though never achieving recovery from the threatened status on the Endangered Species List. This year’s run is surely going to record a dismal smolt-to-adult return rate for wild steelhead in the Snake River Basin.
6. Humans release 5-6 billion hatchery salmon and steelhead into the northern Pacific Ocean each year.
7. Is 10 percent of what we used to get back for free worth $1 billion a year in perpetuity? Does 2 percent wild fish runs of historical runs constitute record runs in your estimation? If not, contact your congressional delegation and tell them to vote no on HR 3144.
8. Only wild fish matter when it comes to removal from the Endangered Species List. The dams now generate less than 4 percent of the power in the Pacific Northwest . The region has a 13 percent energy surplus and would still have about a 9 percent energy surplus without the four lower Snake River dams. A few years ago, 86 percent of the fisheries biologists in the western United States said that removing the four lower Snake River dams is the single best action mankind can take to allow these wild salmonids to recover.
9. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers labels the lower Snake River as a waterway of "negligible use." Container shipping on the lower Snake was suspended in the spring of 2015. Shipping on the Lower Snake is down 60 percent since 2000.
10. I like to end on a positive note. We can be the generation that saved wild salmon and steelhead in the Snake River Basin. We must inform our leaders that we can live without these deadbeat dams on the Lower Snake River and we will prosper after breaching these dams. I truly believe we borrow this world from our children, and when you borrow something you should return it to the owner in as good or better shape than it was in when you borrowed it. Here is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make the world a better place for our children and grandchildren. The Salmon Blog is working toward a future where the abundance of wild salmon challenges our notions to revere them. Please join me in freeing the Snake River and allowing wild salmonids to recover throughout the accessible Snake River Basin!