A stay in the case for Snake River dams creates delay while clock runs out for salmon

Salmon advocates keep winning in court, but the salmon keep losing in the river because we refuse to respond with the obvious solution: dam breaching.

Adult Chinook Salmon in the Snake River Basin. Photo by Matt Steinwurtzel


  • Chris Wood, President and CEO, Trout Unlimited, chris.wood@tu.org
  • Greg McReynolds, Snake River Director, Trout Unlimited, greg.mcreynolds@tu.org
  • Zoe Bommarito, Mountain West Communications Director, Trout Unlimited, zoe.bommarito@tu.org

ARLINGTON, Va. – Snake River salmon are getting wait-listed. Today, the Biden Administration and litigants calling for the removal of the lower four Snake River dams agreed to an extension of the stay in the decades-long court case. The Biden Administration committed to work with litigants – including the Nez Perce Tribe, the State of Oregon and conservation organizations – earlier this year on a comprehensive solution to save dwindling populations of wild Snake River salmon.   

As this litigation continues on, Trout Unlimited has remained steadfast in our commitment to Snake River salmon and steelhead. As President and CEO, Chris Wood said, “this should be common sense. We can meet all of the social and economic interests that depend on the dams, but the salmon? They need a river.”   

The Snake basin is the largest area of coldwater habitat left in the lower 48 states for Pacific salmon and steelhead. Historically, millions of fish returned every year to the Snake basin in Idaho and Oregon. But the dams created 140 miles of hot, slack water, resulting in wild salmon populations declining to only two percent of their historic levels.  

Today’s stay is a show of good faith between the litigants in the court case for salmon, but the delay itself is bad news for wild fish. The salmon crisis in the Snake River basin continues to worsen and we are running out of time.  

“Salmon advocates keep winning in the courts, but salmon continue to lose in the Snake River because we refuse to respond to the obvious solution: dam breaching. Time is running out for these wild fish. Unless we remove the lower four dams soon Congress, the Bonneville Power Administration and the Army Corp of Engineers will bear the stain of the extinction of these magnificent fish that define the cultural, spiritual, and economic lives of Northwest tribes and rural communities.” – Chris Wood, CEO and President of Trout Unlimited 

The equation is simple. The four lower four Snake River dams are approaching obsolescence. Wild Snake River salmon and steelhead are on the brink of extinction. We are failing to meet our Congressionally authorized tribal treaty obligations. The time for delay is over.  

As evidenced by a series of public listening sessions and a recent comment period that generated over 60,000 written comments, the public favors a comprehensive dam removal solution to save salmon and rebuild infrastructure in the northwest.  

It’s time for the Northwest delegation and the Biden Administration to build upon the work of Rep. Mike Simpson, R-ID, Sen. Murray, D-WA and Gov. Inslee D-WA to craft a comprehensive solution that lifts all boats and recovers salmon.