Murray / Inslee salmon recovery planning moves forward as urgency builds for Snake River dam removal

Trout Unlimited welcomes moves by decision-makers to save Snake River salmon



ARLINGTON, Va.—Northwest decision-makers and the Biden Administration are making urgent moves to save Snake River salmon and steelhead as fish populations in the iconic river basin teeter on the verge of extinction. On Friday, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Washington Governor Jay Inlsee announced a joint federal-state plan to evaluate the removal of the lower four Snake River dams.

Over the next eight months, in consultation with Tribes and others who rely on the river, they will assess “whether there are reasonable means for replacing the benefits provided by the Lower Snake River Dams, sufficient to support breach as part of a salmon recovery strategy for the Snake River and the Pacific Northwest,” Murray and Inslee said in a joint statement. They committed to issuing their recommendation before the end of July 2022.

Murray also said she would work to ensure that “key elements of a salmon recovery strategy” are incorporated into the FY22 Water Resources Development Act, including analysis of dam removal.

The Murray / Inslee news came on the heels of a Thursday announcement that the Biden Administration has agreed to a stay in a lawsuit involving the Nez Perce Tribe, the State of Oregon and fishing and conservation groups. The litigation seeks to alter the Columbia River Operations Plan, which would continue policies that are driving wild Snake River salmon and steelhead rapidly toward extinction. The pause will allow states, Tribes, and stakeholders “the opportunity to identify and review alternative and durable solutions to longstanding challenges in the Columbia River System,” the administration said.

“Momentum is building toward the inevitable conclusion that there is no way to recover Snake River salmon and steelhead without removing the four lower dams,” Trout Unlimited president and CEO Chris Wood said. “We welcome the engagement of Senator Murray and Governor Inslee in the effort to help recover these fisheries. Scientists have made it clear that without a free-flowing Snake, these salmon face imminent extinction.

“Happily, Congressman Mike Simpson has shown that there is a path forward. Building on his groundbreaking work, we can remove these dams, recover salmon populations, make good on our promises to Tribes, and build a stronger economy for the region’s communities.”

The Snake River Basin contains more than half the current coldwater habitat for Pacific salmon and steelhead in the lower 48, and was once home to massive runs of anadromous fish.

In September, Trout Unlimited led dozens of fish and wildlife groups and major outdoor recreation companies in calling on the Biden administration to develop a comprehensive solution to the collapse of salmon and steelhead populations, including the removal the four dams on the lower Snake River.


Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to caring for and recovering America’s rivers and streams so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon. Across the country, TU brings to bear local, regional, and national grassroots organizing, durable partnerships, science-backed policy muscle, and legal firepower on behalf of trout and salmon fisheries, healthy waters and vibrant communities.