Army Corps Plan Fundamentally Inadequate to Save Snake River Salmon, Revitalize Northwest Communities

Congressional Leadership Essential to Save Threatened Salmon Runs, Deliver Renewed Prosperity to Farmers, Fisherman, Ratepayers, Communities

SEATTLE — The Army Corps of Engineers’ Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Lower Snake River Dams only affirms that Congress needs to intervene with a more comprehensive solution that will recover abundant salmon runs, revitalize communities, deliver clean and affordable power, support farmers and promote sustainable growth. 

“After pursuing wholly ineffective strategies to recover Snake River salmon for two decades, it’s time to turn to our leaders in Congress for common-sense legislation that will create a healthy, intact river system that works for people, fish and wildlife,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president of public lands at the National Wildlife Federation. “We can look to the bipartisan ‘Great American Outdoors Act’ as a blueprint to build on. Representative Mike Simpson has championed that legislation because he knows that careful investment in public lands and waters can and bring jobs and economic prosperity to nearby communities for decades to come.”

Since the final construction of the dams in the 1970s, 13 species of salmon and steelhead have been listed threatened according to the Endangered Species Act. At the same time as fish populations have plummeted, the maintenance and operating costs of the Lower Snake River Dams to ratepayers and taxpayers alike have skyrocketed.

“We are at a crux in time for our region and the future of salmon and steelhead. Before us is an opportunity to work toward a viable future for all, not just a few,” said Brian Brooks, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation. “The FEIS entirely neglects the impacts to the people of Idaho by omitting economic data for Idaho’s fish. It is clear this problem won’t be solved by the acting agencies. Our congressmen will have to pick up the reins.”

Despite decades of habitat recovery attempts at the cost more than $17 billion, 2020 salmon and steelhead returns remained perilously low, forcing emergency fishing closures — and economic devastation — in Washington, Oregon and Idaho fishing communities.

“Salmon and steelhead are iconic to the Northwest and hold enormous economic value for the state of Oregon as well. Low returns are causing season closures and economic hardship for businesses that rely on and benefit from abundant, fishable populations,” said Chris Hager, executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders

The FEIS was prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that is responsible for managing the four lower Snake River dams. It follows the outline in the draft plan, submitted in March and seeks to continue with the same strategies and failed, irresponsible spending. Ongoing upkeep and maintenance of the dams, coupled with a significant drop in the wholesale energy market, is leading to higher costs to taxpayers and ratepayers. 

The FEIS was prepared after a court rejected a 2016 plan for salmon recovery — the fifth to be invalidated by three judges in over two decades. State, federal and Tribal scientists agree that restoring the lower Snake River is our very best option for protecting its fish from extinction and it represents our greatest salmon restoration opportunity anywhere on the West Coast. Recovering Snake River salmon will benefit tribal and non-tribal fishing communities on the Washington Coast and throughout the Columbia and Snake River Basins.  

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