Lower Snake River Deemed 'Endangered'
by Jason Kauffman
Idaho Mountain Express, April 7, 2009
Dams harming salmon and steelhead migrations, group says
Four large dams on the lower Snake River in southeast Washington are driving salmon to the brink of extinction while preventing the Northwest from embracing 21st century energy and transportation opportunities, conservationists have declared.
The threats to the stretch of river has convinced the American Rivers conservation group to name it the No. 3 most endangered river in the country for 2009. Each year, the group releases its own list of the top-ten most endangered rivers in the nation. The group chose the Sacramento and the San Joaquin rivers in California as this year's most endangered river system.
American Rivers has called on the Obama administration and the Northwest congressional delegation to begin negotiations to forge a river restoration plan that will work for communities and salmon in light of the threats posed by the dams and global warming.
Removing the four dams and restoring a free-flowing lower Snake River will not only revive salmon runs and a multi-million dollar fishery, it will eliminate a growing flood threat in Lewiston, Idaho and create an opportunity to modernize the region's transportation and energy systems, the group claims.
"The fate of the lower Snake River and its communities hangs in the balance," said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.
For years, the Save Our Wild Salmon coalition has been working with commercial and sport fishing groups, clean energy and taxpayer advocates, businesses and conservationists to create an effective solution to the Columbia-Snake salmon issue that will work for the entire region. The groups involved in the effort are ramping up their efforts to convince leaders that removing the four lower Snake dams makes sense.
The dams and 140 miles of slackwater reservoirs block salmon and steelhead from reaching the largest and best protected high-elevation spawning and rearing habitat left in the lower 48 states, the group says. The Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor dams create a "hostile gauntlet of deadly turbines and warm, stagnant reservoirs full of hungry predators that have caused dramatic declines in the Snake River's salmon runs," a news release from the group states.
Salmon and steelhead bound for the Sawtooth Valley must cross over these dams. Conservationists say the dams kill as many as 90 percent of juvenile salmon and steelhead that migrate downstream to the ocean each year.
Endangered Rivers Report by American Rivers
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