Why is the Snake River Basin the right place to make this kind of investment?
The Snake River has, by far, the greatest potential for wild fish recovery of any watershed in the Columbia Basin.
Historically it produced about 40 percent of the spring/summer Chinook salmon and 55 percent of the summer steelhead in the Columbia system. Annual run estimates prior to the 1850s exceed two-million fish for all Snake River stocks. Even with significant areas of the Snake River blocked by impassable dams (Hells Canyon Complex and Dworshak) it still has tens of thousands of miles of high-quality salmon and steelhead habitat in the Clearwater, Salmon, Grand Ronde and Imnaha sub-basins. About 46 percent of the Snake Basin’s historic spawning and rearing habitat for spring and summer Chinook Salmon and summer steelhead remains accessible.
By the numbers
More broadly, within the current, native distribution of salmon and steelhead on the West Coast (CA, OR, WA, and ID), the 30,000 miles of stream habitat in the Snake River Basin represents:
Total amount of accessible stream habitat
Current coldwater habitat
Predicted coldwater habitat in 2080
Protected public lands with wilderness qualities
Mile-for-mile, the Snake River basin contains the coldest, most undisturbed stream habitats in the Lower 48.
The bottom line is that if we are going to make major investments in wild fish recovery in the Columbia Basin, the Snake is the place to put our money.