Thursday, December 16, 2010

Revisioning the lower Snake River

Graduate students with Washington State University (WSU) and University of Idaho unveiled their “Future Directions for the Snake River, Dams and Regional Transportation,” visions of a lower Snake River landscape without dams at the Sage Bakery in Lewiston, ID last week. 

Professor Jolie Kaytes’ Landscape Design class spent the semester meeting with stakeholders, touring and lower Snake River and consulting with experts to develop designs on how the lower Snake River could look in the future with agriculture, modern transportation and local communities thriving along a restored river.

The students this fall were the second group to imagine a future Snake River.  Last year’s class explored ideas for the Snake River waterfront in Clarkston/Lewiston.  Designs focused on reconnecting the historic downtown with the river, utilizing reclaimed riverfront lands for public markets, recreation, tourism and commerce. 

This year's designs were unveiled at an evening reception at Sage Bakery.  The students’ work will remain on the walls through the end of January 2011, in conjunction with a gallery of historic photos of the lower Snake River, showing what the river looked like before dams and could look like again.  

This year’s designs focused on the stretch of river from Pasco, WA to Central Ferry upstream from Little Goose dam.  Modern rail depots facilitating transport of crops and people, free-flowing river recreation, restored Native-American lands, and abundant salmon were featured.  Some designs focused on the values at stake and needs of farmers, local communities, and salmon-dependent communities, while another design suggested how the region can seize an opportunity for stakeholder dialogue to create a future that includes a restored river while meeting the needs of farmers, fishermen and local towns.

"The students’ projects address and reveal the complex relationships among organisms, locale, the built environment, ideologies, and time,” said Jolie Kaytes, the course instructor and associate professor of landscape architecture at WSU. “They employ design strategies that require us to broadly reflect on values, energy, edge, transport, recreation, farming, community, power, sustenance, soil, settlement, and salmon.

“Ultimately, the students’ projects challenge us to reexamine how we see and understand the region, to continually review, in the multiple senses of that word, the Snake River Basin and what it means
to be a citizen of this landscape,” she said.

Stop by and check out the students’ work.  Sage Bakery is located at 1303 Main Street in Lewiston.  Stay tuned for showings of the designs in Spokane, Seattle and other locations in 2011.   Designs from the previous class are available for viewing here at Working Snake River's website.

For more information go to:
And stay tuned for closer looks at these landscape designs soon...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winds of Change are coming to the Lower Snake River Basin

Turbine Tower Truck, courtesy of PSE
Creating carbon-free energy, good jobs and healthy communities – and further diminishing the need for 4 dams on the lower Snake.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE), a Northwest-based power utility is in the midst of expanding its wind turbine facilities in the wind-rich lower Snake River drainage in southeast Washington State, just a stone’s throw (OK, a long throw) from the salmon-killing lower Snake River dams. Is it providence or merely coincidence?

PSE’s Lower Snake River Wind Project will build on existing nearby wind facilities, Hopkins Ridge and Marengo – expanding the Pacific Northwest’s truly clean energy by 343 MW.  In addition to the numerous benefits associated with increasing our supply of domestic, carbon-free, salmon-friendly energy, these projects also contribute significant benefits by creating short and long-term jobs locally, generating income for local landowners, and increasing local tax revenues – all things we need more of these days!

PSE reports on a number of these economic benefits from the Hopkins Ridge and Marengo wind facilities, which represent a combined 204 wind turbines with 367 megawatts (MW) of capacity.

PSE found that:
• Construction of these Columbia County wind facilities created $2.3 million annually in labor income
• Operation of these facilities contributes $3.5 million annually in labor income
• Construction of these facilities created 190 direct and indirect jobs
• Operation of these facilities created 55 direct and indirect jobs
• These facilities paid more than $900,000 in taxes in 2008, reducing the tax burden on individual property owners.

PSE also looked at the economic impact of wind on a per-MW basis, and found, for example, that operation of these facilities results in $10,000 in annual income per MW. The new Lower Snake Wild Project being installed as we speak will provide more of the same - Local Jobs. Income. Tax revenues. Carbon-free energy. No harm to salmon.

Northwest wind and other renewable sources of energy are no longer an energy source for the future. It’s here now. We are building it, using it in-region, and exporting it out of region. Unplugging ourselves from the energy of the lower Snake River dams and replacing their limited transportation and energy benefits with alternatives is feasible, affordable, and will provide long-term benefits for our region – healthy salmon populations, good jobs in energy, transportation and outdoor recreation, taxpayer savings, and restored habitat and parklands for hunting, fishing, hiking and boating along 140 miles of the lower Snake River.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

WSU: Future directions for Snake River, dams envisioned

Little Goose Dam, a revision. Illustration by Stephen Ulman, courtesy WSU.

Little Goose Dam, current. Illustration by Stephen Ulman, courtesy WSU.
By Brian Clark, WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences

PULLMAN - Landscape architecture, design and education graduate students from Washington State University and the University of Idaho will present their visions for the Lower Snake River Basin, Dec. 9-Jan. 31 at the Sage Baking Company, 1303 Main St., Lewiston. The opening reception will be 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9.

Snake River reView showcases the design work of graduate students in the course “Cultural Interpretations of the Regional Landscape.” During the course, students studied the connections between people and place in the basin and the ways these connections are affected by and affect the Lower Snake River dams.

“The students’ projects address and reveal the complex relationships among organisms, locale, the built environment, ideologies and time,” said Jolie Kaytes, the course instructor and associate professor of landscape architecture at WSU. “They employ design strategies that require us to broadly reflect on values, energy, edge, transport, recreation, farming, community, power, sustenance, soil, settlement and salmon.

Read more from WSU Today.
Take a look at "Water Views" - lower Snake River revisioning designs from 2009-2010. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Upcoming Elwha River Dam Removal: more salmon, more jobs, more food, and lessons for the future

Question: What do imperiled orcas and salmon, the S’Klallam tribe, fishermen, and residents of the Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula have in common right now?

Answer: Their shared anticipation about the upcoming removal of two large dams on the Elwha River that originates in the heart of the Olympic National Park. There are plenty of benefits to go around: a free-flowing Elwha River will mean not only a lot more salmon, but also jobs and economic activity. Elwha dam removal is a job-creator. In addition, this success on the Elwha holds important lessons for other dam removal efforts in the region – including on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington.

Today’s cause for celebration began more than two decades ago with a then-controversial proposal introduced by members of the S’Klallam Tribe living on the banks of the Elwha River. But everything has changed today. Preparations for dam removal – the nation’s largest to date – are already well under way. Concrete will start coming down in September, with a freely flowing Elwha River river by March 2014.

The Elwha once teemed with salmon. It was particularly famous for its “hogs” – 100-pound chinook salmon. But it was also one of those rare Northwest rivers that was home to all five types of Pacific salmon – chinook, coho, chum, pink, and sockeye, as well as steelhead. It was a quintessential salmon river - until two dams were constructed on it a century ago. The 70+ miles of perfect rivers and streams were completely cut off just four miles from the ocean. The promised fish ladders were never installed and the salmon devastated.

The Elwha River and Glines Canyon Dams are 108 feet and 210 feet in height, respectively. One of the big challenges in this removal process is sediment. Tremendous amounts of sediment have been deposited behind both dams that will be flushed out to the estuary as the dams are removed. This has both an upside and a downside.

The estuary at the mouth of the river has been literally starved of sediments for the last century. Restoring natural sediment deliveries from a free-flowing Elwha River will provide huge habitat benefits in the estuary. However, until this massive pulse of sediment has moved through the river system starting next fall, there will be negative, albeit temporary, habitat impacts.

River Restoration = Job Creation

A restored Elwha is expected to once again support 300,000 salmon and steelhead in just 15 – 20 years, making S’Klallam tribal members, fishermen, and endangered orcas in desperate need of more chinook very, very happy. And it is also creating a lot of much-needed jobs in both the near and long-term. Planning, mitigation projects, dam removal, and habitat restoration – will create hundreds of new local jobs. In the longer-term, a restored river and healthy salmon runs will support roughly 2,000 local jobs in sectors like fishing, guide services, gear sales, and different types of outdoor recreation and tourism.

Nearly thirty years ago, when this conversation about removing the two dams on the Elwha got started, the idea was controversial. But over the years, as safety concerns mounted, as stakeholders sat down and talked about what they would need if the dams were removed, a plan was crafted that led to Congressional authorization and funding to remove the dams and meet the needs of local people and communities.

The restoration of the Elwha River is a huge win for the people of Washington State and the nation. Starting in 2011, SOS will be tracking the progress of this important project and writing about its history and lessons, its people and the place, the costs and the anticipated benefits in terms of jobs, fishing opportunity, orca survival, and salmon recovery.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Exxon's long-term plans revealed

from the desk of Sam Mace:
Mega-load shipments begin moving into the Northwest

Mega-loads like this thing have started moving into the Northwest

Local citizens, businesses and conservationists continue to fight Big Oil’s plans to ship mining equipment up our salmon rivers and scenic highways to the Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada. It is arguably one of the most environmentally destructive activities on the planet.  Tar sands mining in Canada is destroying rivers, water quality, boreal forest, and fisheries, and affecting climate change.  Recently, over 40 regional and national organizations wrote a letter urging Northwest members of Congress to provide oversight on this project. Read the letter here.

The issue has recently been covered in the New York Times: "Oil Sands Effort Turns on a Fight Over a Road" - October 22nd, 2010.  

If you haven't already, please take action on this issue.

Exxon moves the first mega-loads to the Northwest
Despite widespread opposition, this month Exxon imported its first shipment of heavy loads through the Port of Vancouver and barged them 435 miles upriver to the Port of Lewiston.  This act of arrogance—permits have not been issued and Conoco’s similar mega-loads are stalled at the Port by court order—is proof that Exxon views our rivers and roads as a mere resource at their disposal and cares little about public input.  

Recently translated Korean documents reveal what people have suspected:  Exxon wants permanent use of the Columbia-Snake Rivers and scenic Highway 12 to ship massive loads of mining equipment to the Tar Sands.  While Exxon continues to claim it plans to send only 207 mega-load shipments in the next year, documents obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) show that Exxon has signed long-term contracts with Korean manufacturers for equipment over the next two decades.   

And it’s not just Exxon hoping to make a new “High and Wide” shipping route through the Northwest.   Idaho Department of Transportation has met with Harvest Energy, another company involved in the Tar Sands that wants to use Highway 12 for their industrial shipping route.  

Opposition grows among elected leaders, agencies and citizens
With the realization that Big Oil wants to permanently transform one of the Northwest’s most beloved pristine recreation areas into a permanent industrial corridor, opposition is mounting.  Forest Supervisors for the Clearwater and Lolo National Forests are now on record in opposition..  The Missoula, MT City Council and local Idaho state representatives are working to stop the shipments.  Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio wrote a letter to the Dept. of Transportation expressing his concern over the impacts of this proposal and lack of public review and oversight.

Most recently, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) publicly expressed his concerns about Exxon’s plans and the impacts to the Northwest and is following the issue closely.

As Big Oil’s intentions become clear, concerns are growing.  With your help, we can stop Exxon from turning our rivers and roads into their own dirty highway.  Please contact your elected leaders and urge them to oppose Big Oil’s push for a Big Road.  At the very least urge them to require pubic and environmental review of such a far-reaching project that will change the character of the scenic Highway 12 corridor forever. 

Sam Mace is the Inland Northwest Director for Save Our Wild Salmon
She can be reached at

Orca Baby!

New killer whale calf appears in Puget Sound

From Christopher Dunagan of the Kitsap Sun:

The birth was reported by observers with the Center for Whale Research, who spotted the baby Wednesday off the south end of San Juan Island. The newborn has been designated L-116, the next available number for L pod.

The calf is believed to be the first offspring of L-82, born in 1990. The newborn appears to be less than a week old, and researchers say the calf appears healthy.

This is the third calf born into L pod this year. The first, L-114, did not survive more than a few days. The second, L-115, was born in August and still appears healthy. Both L-115 and L-116 and their mothers are in the same subgroup that has been traveling together. The new calf brings the total for the three Southern Resident pods to 90.

Meanwhile, a large number of killer whales was reported Thursday traveling through Puget Sound. They were seen from the Kingston and Bremerton ferries as well as from Blake Island and West Seattle. They were identified as Southern Residents.

At this time of year, orcas are seen more frequently in Central and South Puget Sound as they switch from foraging for chinook salmon, their primary prey in the San Juan Islands, to the more abundant chum salmon coming back to streams throughout Puget Sound.

In other orca-related news, Puget Sound kayak guide Martine Springer of Sea Quest Expeditions recently added her voice to Working Snake River for Washington.  Here's a clip:

"Imagine yourself in a kayak flowing down a broad ribbon of blue water. Surrounding you are more islands than you can count, and in the distance, you see snow-capped mountain peaks. Your flotilla of companions rounds a headland crowned by an old lighthouse, and suddenly, they appear."

Read more at Working Snake River for Washington.

For more information on the orca / salmon connection, check out this great video.
Also check out our great partners on this issue:
Center for Whale Research -- Orca Network -- People for Puget Sound

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Harnessing Washington’s Wind

Creating carbon-free energy and good jobs and healthy communities – and further diminishing the need for 4 dams on the lower Snake.

by Joseph Bogaard, outreach director, Save Our Wild Salmon
A recent article in the Vancouver Columbian highlighted the wind energy investments in Kittitas County in and around the Columbia Gorge east of Portland and Vancouver. This is one of our region’s most promising areas for generating this clean and affordable energy source. Indeed, the wind blows a lot around here. Based on projects currently under construction and in the permitting process, more than 1,000 wind turbines should be online within the next several years able to produce 1200 MW of energy. That’s enough to support roughly 300,000 homes.

In addition to bringing new carbon-free energy online, the projects are also creating lots of much needed, good-paying jobs, generating significant tax revenues, and creating an important revenue stream for farmers and rural landowners that is – at least in some cases – is allowing them to stay put and keep the land in the family instead of selling to developers.

Farmers who lease their land to energy companies for turbine installations  - about $10,000 per year per turbine – can also keep farming. This steady source of income can make an important difference in an industry often known for ups and downs. Tax revenues from the turbines are also helping to improve schools and invest in the public health and safety services like fire and police.

Washington state’s energy portfolio is diversifying rapidly. Regional hydropower is basically maxed out now, supplying just under 60% of Northwest electric needs. The region’s official power planning agency, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, projects electricity needs increasing by about 3,400 average megawatts over the next 10 years, dropping hydropower’s share of the regional mix to just over 50% by 2020. Hydropower’s share will continue to drop as power consumption rises … and that doesn’t even take into account the climate change-related reductions in mountain snowpack that will cut hydropower capacity ever more deeply.

Energy efficiency will meet the lion’s share of new needs, along with wind and other new renewable energy sources. 
Right now, we’re actually developing more wind power than the region currently needs, so much of this new clean energy is actually heading south to markets in California. As new clean sources of energy continue to come online in the Pacific Northwest, the importance of lower Snake River dams’ relatively small contribution to our region’s overall energy diet continues to shrink. Our region can survive, indeed even thrive, without the 1,200aMW generated by these dams – about a third of which is sold on the market to California and elsewhere since Northwest public utilities don’t need it.

More information can be found at the NW Energy Coalition’s website.
You can also contact me directly:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Stacking the Deck: Senators Murray and Cantwell limit dialogue in Columbia-Snake salmon recovery

According to documents surfacing from several Freedom of Information Act requests, Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have been working behind the scenes to limit communication between Obama administration officials - NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco among them - and leaders within the Northwest salmon community.  The senators appear to be stacking the political deck against real dialogue about long-term solutions to recover Columbia and Snake River salmon to abundance and meet the needs of our Northwest communities. 

These findings and more can be found in a great op-ed from author Steven Hawley, published in the Oregonian on August 21st.  Read Hawley's op-ed here.

Many in Washington will remember that former Governor Gary Locke is now head honcho at the Commerce Department, which overseas the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency that crafts the salmon and steelhead plan for the Columbia-Snake Basin.  Senators Murray and Cantwell appear to have been in close contact with both Secretary Locke and Dr. Lubchenco through the course of the Obama administration's review of the Bush-era salmon policies (as you will recall - they eventually decide to stick with the Bush plan). 

While we have yet to hear from Senators Murray and Cantwell about these specific issues uncovered by Mr. Hawley, this is not the type of leadersip we expect or need from our elected officials.  A commitment to science, transparency in decision-making, and substantive public involvement focused on solutions is what the Northwest needs to solve these types of challenging natural resource issues.

To post a comment online, go here:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Big Spill = Big Dollars, Big Fun & River Health

In his Op Ed piece on, Oregon fishing guide, Bob Rees sheds light on the role that court-ordered spill over the federal dams has played in bringing back large numbers of steelhead and salmon to the Columbia Basin. Sadly, this spill program is missing from the Obama salmon plan. In recent years recreational fishing organizations as a part of a larger coalition, pressed the federal government to spill water for out-migrating juvenile fish. The courts enforced a spill program and today we see the results.

It's clear that anglers get the simple truth of letting salmon smolts migrate in the river vs. taking a lethal ride in a government barge… when a river runs like a river, fish respond positively, coming back home in droves. When the system works, recreational opportunities abound. These angling opportunities translate to money spent in our towns, local businesses that thrive and a great quality of life for all who live in, or travel to the Snake River corridor.

The spill program and its positive results suggest a way forward... towards opportunity. The time is right for stake-holders to discuss the fact that actual salmon recovery will require dialogue, accurate science, true accounting and a willingness to discuss real solutions. Charting this course will allow a win-win for all stakeholders. The Obama Administration's salmon plan offers little in the way of hope in this regard. It is time to write Senators Cantwell and Murray and tell them that recovered runs of wild Snake River salmon and steelhead equals money in our pockets, healthy rivers and smiles on all of our faces!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Outside Blog: Dams Fall Apart, Kayackers See Opportunities

Free flowing rivers provide amazing benefits to society. Restoring the flow of rivers by removing outdated dams returns their whitewater recreation potential which always benefits surrounding communities economically and socially...

The Lower Snake River had over fifty large rapids before four dams drown them... It's time to boat them again!

Check out this post by Kyle Dickman on Outside Magazine's Outside Blog... Dams Fall Apart, Kayakers See Opportunities 

"The average age of America’s 86,000 dams is 51, and the estimated price to repair just the high-hazard dams, or those near homes, is a staggering $16 billion. Don’t expect that investment to be made anytime soon (things like wars and unruly banks are demanding more of Washington’s attention), but until it is, more dams will break.

One solution rightly being championed by enviros-- American Whitewater, Save Our Wild Salmon, American Rivers--is to purge old and unproductive dams from the inventory, like Washington State did when they tore Hemlock Dam down last August. Check out Outside's July issue for coverage and this film for more info...." Read on...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Glimpses through a knothole

From fly fisherman’s perspective, fishing the Snake River in its current form for Steelhead is about like looking through a hole in a fence. You catch small glimpses of what it was, and you keep peering for more with the hope you find what could be.

Steelhead on their return to their ancestral spawning grounds are met with lakes where fast flowing current should have been. To me, it’s a miracle that their noses guide them back to the rivers of their birth, hatchery or not. From the Snake’s termination with the mighty Columbia back upstream, the water flows like molten lava. It’s moving, slowly.

But, there are the glimpses that us fisherman still hold onto. Get upriver of Lewiston and Clarkston and the river does all it can to regain it’s original form. The low water of fall showcases islands creases and runs in the water that all fishing brethren look for as signals of Steelhead and Salmon holding water. It’s where we guide our flies into with the promise that we find a connection. It’s these small snapshots of what the river did look like and what it could look like that hold’s the rivers ultimate promise for tomorrow.

It’s where we hope for a better day ahead.

Josh Mills is an avid eastern Washington angler and writer who has spent many hours on the Snake, Clearwater and Grande Ronde rivers fishing for steelhead, smallies, and any other fish that are game to take a fly. For more of his great adventures visit his blogspot at

The floor, not the ceiling

Salmon returns in the Columbia and Snake Rivers
This summer, the Columbia-Snake River Basin is witnessing a very positive return of salmon and steelhead. Scientists credit favorable ocean conditions, along with the court-ordered spill of water over some of the basin’s dams, for swelling the ranks of fish.
The increases in spill (the good kind) — won in court by Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition members alongside the legal team at Earthjustice — helps many more baby salmon survive their epic migrations from mountain streams to the sea where they grow to adulthood. Scientists also credit this spill with significantly contributing to a chinook salmon return currently 140 percent above the 10-year average and a sockeye run breaking modern records.

For those working to restore vibrant runs of salmon to the Columbia-Snake, this year’s salmon returns offer a glimpse of what could be achieved if we follow science to protect what was once the world’s most productive salmon watershed. For the communities that rely on these fish, and for the durability of the Endangered Species Act, these returns should represent the floor, not the ceiling, as we assess the recovery of Columbia-Snake salmon and the economic, cultural, and ecosystem needs of the region.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tom O'Keefe from American Whitewater

When Lewis and Clark descended the lower Snake River corridor they encountered a landscape of canyon lands, deep draws, beaches, river islands and rapids. The lower Snake here is a big river. It is the largest tributary to the Columbia swelling to 180,000 cubic feet per second in a high water year, and its rapids and whirlpools were feared and respected as hazards to be negotiated with care and attention. Many of the rapids were later named for people or features in the landscape. Names like Log Cabin Rapids, Little Pine Tree Rapids and Haunted House Rapids were common.

A shot of the Lower Snake River before the construction of Lower Granite Dam in 1969. Courtesy of the University of Idaho, Special Collections, Kyle Laughlin Collection.

However, with the completion of Lower Granite Dam in 1975 over fifty rapids fell silent under the still waters of the reservoirs. These went missing along with numerous river islands, beaches, river bars and riparian forests so familiar to the large rivers of the Columbia Basin and the inter-mountain west.

Lower Granite Dam. Northwest Discovery Water Trail

A shot of the Lower Snake River before construction of Lower Monumental Dam in 1969.
Courtesy of the University of Idaho, Special Collections, Kyle Laughlin Collection.

Today a healthy discussion is taking place that reconsiders the values that these rivers, their rapids and boat-able corridors that they provide. This discussion warrants a healthy, clear-eyed look at the real values of rivers and what they bring to the citizens of Washington State in the way of long term, durable recreation benefits and quality of life. This is especially important as more people seek out places where they can enjoy clean, flowing rivers and the sporting experiences they provide.

The lower Snake is just such a place that needs a careful re-examination of the values it delivers to Washington residents, and its potential to deliver much more than it currently does. To river runners, this corridor could provide an amazing “big river” experience that is currently very hard to find in America let alone the Northwest. Dispersed campgrounds and developed facilities that allow river access, put-ins, take outs and the potential for a major contiguous, uninterrupted float from Hells Canyon to the mouth of the Columbia River. Currently the river is segmented and non-motorized boaters must portage around four large dams as they are discouraged from “locking through”.

Photo of a little used, lonely portage site on LSR reservoir.
Courtesy of Northwest Discovery Water Trail
As society examines the investments of an earlier age and necessarily questions the values that each dam brings us, it is easy to see the free flowing lower Snake River corridor as an amazing resource both economically and socially for Washington State. I encourage you to join the dialogue and debate about the enormous potential that this river might once again bring to boaters and citizens of all stripes across Washington State and the west. The time is right to become involved.

Thomas O’Keefe is the Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director for American Whitewater

Waterfront Visions: landscape architecture visions of a free-flowing lower Snake River

When developed with foresight and community values in mind, waterfronts have provided many cities and towns the foundations for creating economic synergy and livable cities.  Thoughtfully developed waterfronts can mean access for recreation and relaxation, public space that pull people together, uniting green and public spaces with urban energy.

The Lewiston Clarkston Valley in southeastern Washington is no exception.  The Clearwater and Snake Rivers offer extraordinary potential to create livable, public spaces that enhance economic development.

In 2009, a class of WSU Landscape Architecture students studied the Lewiston Waterfront and developed a series of design concepts that serve as a starting point for envisioning the opportunities that a free flowing waterfront presents.   After studying social, environmental dynamics, talking to residents, and experts they developed water front design concepts that can be used to:
  • Start a community dialogue on the kinds of opportunities and benefits that a restored waterfront might provide.
  • Generate ideas about the kinds of infrastructure needs and developments and investments that would be needed for the communities of Clarkston and Lewiston to put these communities in an advantageous economic position were the Federal government to remove the four lower Snake River dams.
  • In one case, the designs outline a scenario of expanding levees for flood protection and enable citizens to envision what their community might look like if the USACE affects a solution of levee raising.

Visit to see more innovative and creative ideas for Lewiston’s downtown waterfront.

Paul Fish: kayaking a free-flowing Snake River

Paul Fish is the CEO of Mountain Gear based in Spokane, WA

Paul Quinnett on recreation potential of a free-flowing Snake River

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The (Scenic) Highway to Hell

The Columbia and Snake Rivers are slated to be the conveyor belt for one of the world's largest intentional environmental disasters.

by Pat Ford, Executive Director of Save Our Wild Salmon - July 13, 2010

The mighty Columbia-Snake watershed is facing another huge challenge. An oil company focused on profits and a government failing its duties to people has reared a new threat to wild salmon and local communities. It comes in two parts – development of the Canadian oil sands beneath the boreal forests of northern Alberta, and Exxon's surprise plan to use the Columbia and Snake Rivers, plus Idaho and Montana highways, to ship huge mining machinery to those oil sands.


Canadian oil sands development is one of the largest, most destructive industrial projects on earth. Millions of acres of northern boreal forest is being strip-mined for bitumen that holds oil in a solid form. The oil is cooked out through a process that uses water equivalent to a city of roughly 2 million people. Toxic wastewater leaks directly into the environment at a rate of over 2.8 million gallons a day.

The oil is then shipped in a continent-wide network of pipelines and tanker ports into the global oil market. Some of this vast web is in place; the rest is being built as fast as Canadian and American governments issue permits. Once at full scale, the development and its tentacles will operate for nearly half a century.

Along with its direct damage to lands, waters, fish and wildlife, traditional ways and nature-based economies, the oil sands (also called tar sands) is one of the single largest contributors on earth to climate disruption. As NASA climate scientist James Hansen says, "the tar sands constitute one of our planet's greatest threats. They are a double-barreled threat. First, producing oil from tar sands emits two to three times the global warming pollution of conventional oil. But [it] also diminishes one of the best carbon reduction tools on the planet: Canada's Boreal Forest."

That double-barreled harm hits wild salmon. Damage to salmon and steelhead habitats, fresh and salt, caused by climate change is now occurring, more is already inevitable, and many of the salmon affected are already endangered. Which means wild salmon need the carbon-storing boreal forest, and don't need oil whose burning will do three times worse harm to waters than past oil burning.

One of the pipelines nearing approval, the Northern Gateway pipeline to the British Columbia coast, will also harm salmon the old-fashioned way. It crosses and will degrade important salmon habitats, and oil tanker traffic to come in its wake threatens salmon ecosystems all along the coast. Defending salmon habitats and economies is one reason Canadian First Nations, fishermen, and conservationists are fighting this pipeline.


Now another tentacle of the oil sands is poised for the Columbia Basin. This fall, Exxon plans to start shipping huge pieces of Korean-made mining machinery – two-thirds the length of a football field, three stories high, weighing up to 344,000 pounds – to the tar sands. Rather than use an established route through the Panama Canal, then north on designated "high and wide corridor" roads from Texas, Exxon is near gaining federal and state access to a new route: up the Columbia and Snake Rivers by barge to Lewiston, Idaho, then up the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway through wild areas along the Lochsa River in Idaho, then across 350 miles of Montana to Canada. The sole purpose of this new route appears to be to increase Exxon's profits.

The Lochsa River's endangered salmon and steelhead will be further risked by this project. Highway 12 snakes up the Lochsa along the Lewis & Clark Trail in a National Wild and Scenic River corridor. Any accident will damage salmon habitats when the machinery falls into the river, and damage them more with the excavation and grading needed to get such huge stuff out of the river. The Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee has voted to oppose the project for this and other reasons.

It appears from the sparse public record that this will be a permanent industrial corridor to the oil sands for decades. (Exxon is providing little information, and the government less.) That will give the lower Snake dams, whose energy and agricultural uses can both be replaced, a new reason to exist for those decades – with the result, says the best science, that Snake River salmon and steelhead will soon not exist.

There is a last harm. Salmon mean health for watersheds and people. When salmon are endangered, the bonds among salmon, people, and the waters we both inhabit begin to fray in a cycle hard to reverse. This conjunction of massive oil development in Canada, global climate disruption, and an industrial corridor on the Columbia and Snake to enable both, will further that fraying, diminishing salmon and people, now and to come.


Take Action: Contact Secretary Ray LaHood, Secretary Nancy Sutley, and members of Congress here.

Share with your network: Please forward this link – to your friends and family. Urge them to take action.
Good citizen website. Chronicles work by people who live along and use the Lochsa River who suddenly find this project bearing down on them.
Pembina Institute in Vancouver has a website on the tar sands and its effects along the British Columbia coast.
U.S. effects of the tar sands (though so far without mention of Exxon's proposal) are featured on a joint website of some national conservation groups.
A link for the Declaration against the oil sands and Gateway Pipeline by nine First Nations on the British Columbia coast.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Orca Awareness Month; Why It Matters to Me

by Uko Gorter - July 1, 2010

It is my hope that with Governor’s Christine Gregoire’s proclamation of June as Orca Awareness Month in Washington State, more attention is given to the serious issues surrounding our endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. (Read the proclamation)

Since I was a young boy, growing up in my native Holland, I have been fascinated with cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises).  Now that I live in the Seattle area, that love for whales has developed into my current work as a natural history and scientific illustrator specializing in marine mammals.  It also led me to become involved with whale and dolphin conservation through the American Cetacean Society, and as such function as the president of the Puget Sound Chapter of American Cetacean Society’s Puget Sound Chapter.


Killer whales, better known as orca, are apex predators and tremendously important to the marine ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest.  Besides their biological significance, they also have an intrinsic value to our community at large.  Revered by coastal indigenous tribes through their culture and art, they are now the main focus of a well-established whale watch community. Living long complex social lives, killer whales speak to everyone’s imagination and serve as the best ambassador for our marine environment.

These animals inspire connections with people. They’ve prompted online hydrophones so people can listen for their distinctive vocalizations, and a sighting network to alert followers to their whereabouts.  And thanks to 30 years of photo surveys, each of these 90 or so whales is individually identifiable and named allowing scientists and others to see the family relationships among members of this community.

Chinook, or King salmon, are the prey of choice for our resident orca pods.  However, Chinook salmon itself is endangered, making the case for sweeping recovery measures that help both species.

Our Southern Resident killer whales face a number of challenges.  Becoming more aware of them is a good first step. But let’s keep in mind that they won’t recover – they will actually go extinct – if we don’t take aggressive action to save them.

In order to ensure an abundant supply of chinook salmon for the future of these orcas, the federal government needs to reform its salmon policies in the Columbia and Snake River Basin, and use the best available science to provide long term recovery of endangered salmon stocks. We need real leadership on the part of our Washington Senators to pull all stakeholders together and create solutions for salmon, orcas and people.

For more information on Southern Resident Killer Whales:
Read about the killer whale’s primary food and/or Read the federal SRKW Recovery Plan           

Uko Gorter at

A sample of Uko’s work:

More here:

To see the beautiful artwork of Coastal Salish Artist Joe Jack, please visit

On the site you can also read the ancient legend of the Cowichan Thunderbird and Orca.  This story figures deeply into the culture of coastal Salish indigenous people. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Diversity: A key factor in species survival

by Lawrence G. Dominguez - June 27th, 2010

Fish biologist Lawrence Dominguez highlights a crucial concept for salmon and the implications here are clear: the habitat of the Snake River basin remains a critical piece of the ongoing work to ensure the return to abundance of endangered salmon in the Northwest.

Growing up, I instinctively knew that diversity was a good thing. I didn't know what it meant but when my mom used to tell me not to put all my eggs in one basket I felt that she meant well, even though growing up in the suburbs didn't require a trip to the coop every morning. From Hot Wheels to baseball card collections, the king of the block was the one who had the greatest assortment. It wasn't until late in high school and in college biology and ecology classes that I began to see those same fundamental truths apply to the survival and population growth of animals.

Diversity of populations plays out in various ways in the animal kingdom, starting with how many eggs or offspring that can be produced. This measure of fecundity varies vastly among species; oysters produce 55-114 million eggs, some halibut up to a million eggs per day (!), a spawning salmon lays hundreds to thousands in her redd (nest), birds have between one and 20 offspring, mammals generally up to ten. In general, fecundity is inversely proportional to the amount of parental investment. Salmon parents do a great job of making and protecting nests, but are not around to protect them from predators in the early days and weeks. They embody the very definition of posthumous nurturing, however. (1)

Imagine how much diversity of the Pacific salmon is represented by the combined millions and millions of salmon eggs, growing and hatching in the thousands of Pacific Northwest streams and lakes every year. Successful diversity continues after that with their ability to access diverse and productive habitats (lakes or streams, rivers, estuaries, oceans) throughout their various life stages, and concludes with their ability to make it back to their river of origin to give them the opportunity to pass on that diversity to future generations.

Maintaining biological diversity (habitats, species, and population diversity) has been a cornerstone for providing what species need. It is at the forefront of topics regarding species conservation now more than ever – and rightly so, amidst diminishing animal populations around the world. A recent article in Nature magazine (2) highlights the significance of population and life history diversity in how a population performs.

Using an illustration to which we can all relate to these days, the authors describe the success of a diverse financial portfolio in stressful, uncertain financial times, to illustrate that a diversified "population portfolio" can similarly still perform in challenging circumstances. However, populations inhabiting landscapes that have been heavily altered or influenced – whether by extensive land use alterations, habitat loss, climate change, hatchery impacts, or hydropower influences – will have very difficult times persisting. Adapting to these influences was not necessarily a consideration when the "resiliency portfolio" for salmon populations was "assembled."

Certainly some of those resiliency allocations are becoming manifest in the changing environment but there is uncertainty about how much of that can be explained in adapting to changing environments or simply pushing the salmon to less-preferred areas of their tolerances. Several years ago similar considerations of population diversity were made in an analysis of multiple populations (3) to suggest characteristics of populations that warrant the highest conservation priorities. These are populations that have a high potential for adaptive variation (use of various habitats, different timing, life history diversity), a genetic structure with propensity to spread to larger areas, a sharing of habitats with other populations, and a sharing of distinctive habitat characteristics among populations.

The authors noted that watersheds without restrictive land use areas (that would otherwise provide productive areas to allow portions of the population to recover), should be the highest conservation priorities. Both these articles concur, on different scales, of the importance of population diversity to restore or maintain viable salmon populations or fisheries. A greater source of diverse populations, aided by effective connections between them and their habitats, provide a greater number of pathways to recovery.

Many of the baseball cards I collected in my childhood ended up being clothes-pinned to my bike spokes to simulate a motorcycle sound. Decades later, I humbly learned that the combined value of some of those cards would have likely sent me on a different life history path than a salmon biologist. In the same vein, while we may not have understood it in the past, the value of our remaining diversity of salmon habitats and populations is increasing as its abundance diminishes and threats increase. We must ensure access to and connectivity of habitats, and enough adult returns to the streams to satisfy the fundamental need of diversity in recovery efforts.

Finally – and vitally – let us not overlook the values we have yet to understand, as the recent Nature article demonstrates. The closer we look at, and the more we learn about, salmon populations and their needs, the more factors we must consider in maintaining and recovering fisheries.

by Lawrence G. Dominguez, Fish Ecologist
Cramer Fish Sciences
Providing innovative solutions for fisheries and environmental challenges, serving Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

Mr. Dominguez is a salmon ecologist with expertise in habitat restoration ecology and Endangered Species Act compliance and recovery. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by phone at 360-915-4194.

(1) While alive, adult salmon provide protection for their young for only several days after spawning,, however, through the form of providing nutrient and tissue, they contribute fundamental elements of the food web to the watershed where their young will emerge from the gravel and feed.

(2) Schindler, D.E., R. Hilborn, B. Chasco, C.P. Boatright, T.P. Quinn, L.A. Rogers, and M.S Webster. 2010. Population diversity and the portfolio effect in an exploited species.

(3) Halupka, K.C., M.F. Willson, M.D. Bryant, F. H. Everest, and A.J. Gharett. 2003. Conservation of population diversity of Pacific salmon in Southeast Alaska. North American Journal of Fisheries Management (23): 1057-1086.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Calling on Senators Murray and Cantwell

120 Western Washington business and community leaders seek leadership of Washington's Senators in resolving Columbia Basin salmon crisis

Open letter echoes Eastern Washington leaders’ earlier request that senators bring stakeholders together to craft a comprehensive solution for salmon and the state and regional economy

June 16th, 2010 - Seattle, WA – On Tuesday, 120 Western Washington business owners and community leaders wrote to U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell urging their leadership in solving the Northwest salmon crisis. The open letter to the senators also appears as a full-page ad in today’s Puget Sound-based weekly - the Stranger. The letter signers include over 50 businesses, 40 community leaders, 20 organizations, and several prominent local scientists.

Download the Westside Letter to Senators Murray and Cantwell
Download the Press Release.
See the Westside Letter as it appeared in the Stranger, June 16 issue.
Download the April 28 Eastside Letter to Senators Murray and Cantwell.
See the Eastside Letter as it appeared in the Pacific Northwest Inlander, April 28.

Read about the Eastside Letter in article by Daniel Jack Chasan


These leaders want the senators to bring together all interests —farmers, fishermen, energy users, business owners and local communities—to craft a durable science-based and economically viable salmon restoration plan. They acknowledge past tensions surrounding the salmon issue, but note the enormous economic opportunity if Washington can forge an effective long-term solution.

Watch videos from other leaders in Washington State.

“Salmon aren’t just a part of our state’s natural heritage, they are also very important to our economy,” said Jeremy Brown, commercial salmon troller and Washington Trollers Association board member.  “Especially in our coastal and river communities, salmon has traditionally been a huge source of good jobs and income. The population declines of Columbia Basin salmon in the past several decades have taken a heavy toll on the health of our communities. It’s time to sit down together to figure out how we can constructively address these issues for people on both sides of the mountains.”

Kevin Davis, who owns and operates the Steelhead Diner and Blueacre Seafood in Seattle with his wife Terresa, stressed that his business success depends on fresh, high-quality foods. “I am working constantly with both farmers and fishermen, and I see absolutely no reason why Washington state can’t chart a path forward that supports both healthy farms and healthy fisheries,” Davis said. “We need both. I know that we can find common solutions to our common problems, and bringing people together to finally start that discussion is the right next step.”

Regional orca experts and federal scientists recognize how critical Columbia basin chinook are to the diet of Puget Sound resident killer whales. The Columbia and Snake rivers were once the West Coast’s
greatest source of chinook salmon.

"One of the biggest threats facing our resident orcas today is the availability of food,” said People For Puget Sound executive director Kathy Fletcher. “Our killer whales depend largely on chinook salmon - whose numbers have dropped significantly in the Northwest. This relationship between orcas and salmon is one more connection -- like those of food and energy -- uniting the people of Eastern and Western Washington. And its one more reason why we need leadership from our senators to bring our communities together to find effective lasting solutions. No salmon -- no orcas. It’s that simple.”

More than 50 Eastern Washington business and community leaders began the discussion with Senators Murray and Cantwell in late April in an open letter urging their support of a new inclusive approach to Columbia Basin salmon recovery. U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) previously expressed support for resolving the salmon recovery stalemate through a regional stakeholder negotiation that considers all credible options, including the removal of the four lower Snake River dams.

“I am certainly encouraged by the effort and support of so many business and community leaders on the other side of the mountains and for their interest in sitting down together to work through the issues in a way that can benefit everyone,” said Spokane resident Don Barbieri, chair for Red Lion Hotels and a signer of the eastside letter. “The uncertainty caused by the failure to resolve the salmon crisis affects all of us.”

The Western Washington letter signers — a cross section of business and community leaders — seek a cooperative approach to salmon recovery and to the issue of the lower Snake River dams. An inclusive stakeholder process could not only protect and restore endangered salmon, but also leverage solutions that improve transportation networks, produce clean and affordable energy, and create jobs in all three sectors.

“Healthy fish populations, and especially salmon and steelhead, are my bread and butter,” said Dave McCoy of Seattle’s Emerald Water Anglers, a successful Puget Sound-area guiding business. “The Columbia River and its tributaries really need to be viewed as a special resource for all the people of the region. The courts are typically good at reminding us about what we can’t do. That’s why a stakeholder process makes sense, where we can come together to work on what we can and should do. But we need the support and leadership of Washington’s senators to truly make it happen this time.”

Thirteen salmon and steelhead stocks remain listed under the Endangered Species Act despite 20 years of litigation and expenditure of more than $9 billion on failed restoration efforts. “Our coalition of fishing businesses and conservation groups recognizes that the salmon restoration process must work for our farmers, shippers, energy users and riverside towns,” said Save Our Wild Salmon outreach director Joseph Bogaard. “We are committed to working with fellow stakeholders and our elected leaders to craft a solution that restores our salmon and benefits our communities across the state and
throughout the region.”

For more information, please contact:

Jeremy Brown, commercial salmon troller, WTA board member 360-201-2487 (cell)
Kathy Fletcher, Executive Director, People For Puget Sound, 206-382-7007 (office)
Don Barbieri, Chair, Red Lion Hotels, 509-951-9535 (cell)
Kevin Davis, Steelhead Diner and Blueacre Seafood, 206-659-0737, 206-427-2915 (cell)
Dave McCoy, Owner and Head Guide, Emerald Water Anglers, 206-601-0132 (cell)
Sara Patton, NW Energy Coalition, 206-621-0094
Joseph Bogaard, Save Our Wild Salmon, 206-286-4455, x103, 300-1003 (c)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Reactions to Obama's salmon plan

Buzz Ramsey, Fishing Legend, Yakima Bait Co., Granger, WA

Sportfishing and outdoor recreation represent and key pillar of the economy for local communities across Washington State and throughout the West. Salmon mean business and jobs for our region. With the re-release of an old Bush-era salmon plan for the Columbia and Snake Rivers, the Obama administration has dealt these communities another blow.

In addition to its failings on the science and the law, and the federal government's failure to reach out to salmon-dependent communities, the Obama administration's plan continues to ignore one fundamental reality: salmon need water. Federal agencies had an opportunity to embed a comprehensive multi-year plan - backed by independent scientists - to spill water at the dams to help migrating salmon. Instead, the administration has left the door open to severely limit water flow and spill every year. That means, year after year, the Northwest will be forced back into court to maintain a spill program that works. This seems hypocritical from federal agencies and an administration that continue expressing a need to get out of the courtroom.

All of this points to the need for oversight, and that can come from Senators in Pacific Salmon states, including Senators Murray and Cantwell here in Washington. We deserve a chance to sit down and hash out a comprehensive solution that works for salmon and our local communities.

Susan Berta, Co-Founder, Orca Network, Greenbank, WA

NOAA's current plan to restore endangered salmon in the Snake River conspicuously avoids dam removal, even though that's an essential step if we wish to even stabilize those critically important salmon runs. These salmon are essential for the survival of the also endangered Southern Resident orcas. Marine biologists have learned in the past few decades that there are multiple communities of orcas that each have their own social systems, mating patterns, vocalizations and diet.

In just the past few years scientists have found that Southern Resident orcas survive on Chinook salmon almost exclusively. Between 1995 and 2001 this clan of orcas declined by 20% to a precarious 78 individuals. The decline has been directly correlated with precipitous drops in Chinook salmon numbers during those years. Historically these orcas have depended on upper Columbia and Snake River Chinook for winter sustenance. Clearly, if salmon from the Snake River continue to decline as they have since the four dams were completed, the orcas will also decline.

Joel Kawahara, Commercial Salmon Troller, Quilcene, WA.

"The new Obama plan is nothing more than a big disappointment. It will do nothing to actually reverse the steep declines of salmon and begin to again meet the needs of fishermen or to re-build jobs lost. It essentially dismisses the sacrifices like reducing harvest and restoring habitat that our businesses and families have made to ensure that we aren't fishing for the last salmon. We have been here at the table; we're part of the solution, but we don't see federal agencies or dam operators doing their part. We all need to be working together, and this plan doesn't do that. It leans on fishermen, it restores some tributary habitat, but it does too little to reign in the biggest salmon harvester - the system of federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

Our industry is ready to sit down with others and work on a comprehensive solution that really works for everyone in the region. But this plan is not it. Honestly, this plan should be scuttled and the stakeholders of the region need to start it all over.


Ric Abbett, President, Northwest Steelhead and Salmon Conservation Society

The recently released Obama Administration plan to protect Columbia/Snake River salmon and steelhead is heavy on more studies, light on action and a bitter disappointment. In fact the rollback of the mandated spill over the dams shows there is no committment to reversing the declines of fish populations. A community supported approach that integrates the human component in ecosystem management promises hope for wild fish and the outdoor heritage for future generations. The federal gov't needs to recognize the potential of region stakeholders and states to work thru considerations to their satisfaction and support real science based reform.


Dustin Aherin, Citizens for Progress, Lewiston, Idaho

From the perspective of someone involved in facilitating a positive economic environment in the Lewiston and Clarkston Valley, this plan does not deliver much. It appears that the Obama Administration is attempting to kick this can down the road so that 10 years from now the next generation will have to cope with the same issues we are struggling with. The plan affects our aging levee's, sedimentation and infrastructure issues all of which make for an uncertain future. It provides no clarity and prevent s our communities from charting a secure, long-term course towards economic growth, independence and prosperity. It really is a shame to see so little coming out of an administration that promised so much.