Lower Snake FEIS not the solution to recover salmon and steelhead

After the release of the final environmental impact statement by the Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration last week, Trout Unlimited’s President and CEO, Chris Wood, issued the following statement:

“We need big, bold actions, including removal of the lower Snake River dams, if we are to rebuild  Snake River salmon and steelhead to healthy, harvestable levels.  That is the takeaway from the Environmental Impact Statement and associated Biological Opinion issued today by the federal government.  

In a moment that cried out for leadership, the federal agencies acknowledged that removing the lower Snake River dams would be the most beneficial to imperiled Snake River salmon and steelhead, but chose another option that will likely lead to their extinction. 

The Biological Opinion makes abundantly clear that the option selected — tweaking the current dam operations — will not recover abundant populations of salmon and steelhead.   

If we hope to recover healthy, harvestable salmon and steelhead populations we will need to rely on the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington who this week announced their intention to create a new forum to tackle tough salmon recovery issues, including removal of the lower Snake River dams. Congress will ultimately need to authorize the removal of the dams. 

With climate change barreling down on the region and Snake River salmon and steelhead at high risk of extinction, there is no time to waste.  Federal legislation is needed now to begin planning for removal of the lower Snake River dams and alternative infrastructure to replace the power, transportation and water supply benefits the dams provide.