Trout Unlimited has joined “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 that includes removing the four dams on the lower Snake River and investing billions of dollars in a reimagining of infrastructure in the Northwest,” the conservation organization said in a press release.
According to its website, TU (supported by a consortium of conservation and outdoor groups) sent a letter to five Biden cabinet secretaries calling for “swift action by the Biden administration and Congress [as] the only option remaining to save these iconic and irreplaceable fish.”
They are asking the Biden administration to “reject a deeply flawed 15-year plan for the operation of the Columbia River system, which would not remove the Snake River dams but instead continue a failed strategy that—despite $17 billion invested—has seen Snake River salmon and steelhead drift ever closer to extinction.”
The core of the TU argument for Snake River salmonid improvement is removing four lower Snake River dams—the Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor—in Washington state. The dams were built 50 to 60 years ago by the Army Corps of Engineers, and according to TU have been devastating to the once massive spawning runs into the lower Snake by steelhead and salmon.
For over a half-century fisheries personnel have tried dozens of mitigation procedures to increase salmon and steelhead runs that dams thwart, according to TU. These failed programs included barging fish, increasing spill-over at dams to encourage fish migration, and releasing hatchery fish into the system.
“We have never been able to get enough adults to the Snake River’s high-quality spawning waters to keep these fish (salmon and steelhead) off an extinction trajectory,” TU said.
About half of all salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River system traditionally returned to spawn in the Snake River Basin, including more than a million wild spring and summer chinooks.
TU is petitioning the Biden administration, and a bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators for help in recovering lower Snake River salmon and steelhead, chiefly through dam removal and wild river restoration.