2021 was an eventful year for Idaho’s endangered salmon and steelhead.
In February, Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) released his Columbia Basin Initiative proposal to save these fish from extinction, restore the lower Snake River, and create a better future for the Pacific Northwest. The proposal received support from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Oregon Governor Kate Brown but didn’t make its way into the year’s bipartisan infrastructure legislation. Governor of Washington Jay Inslee and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) decided to take a closer look, announcing in October that they would begin a “federal-state process” to determine how to replace the services provided by the lower Snake River dams and restore the river. The Biden-Harris Administration will play a role in this process too, after pausing ongoing litigation around the dams to focus on a comprehensive solution.
These events are positive steps, but real action is still needed. The Murray-Inslee process is expected to end in July with recommendations and a legislative pathway toward real salmon restoration action. If these leaders are serious about finding comprehensive solutions that restore salmon to abundance, we expect them to come to the obvious conclusion: the lower Snake River dams present an existential threat to Idaho’s salmon and steelhead, they must be removed, and all services they provide can be replaced. Murray and Inslee should use Simpson’s proposal as a blueprint for their own plan and work with him, other Republicans, and the White House to pass bipartisan salmon legislation before the end of 2022.
Murray and Inslee’s offices expect to meet with stakeholder groups over the next several months to gather information and present their concepts. ICL and our partners will be involved to present the scientific consensus on the need for dam breaching and our analysis of how replaceable the dams are. Northwest residents will be crucial in this movement. Elected leaders need to know that this issue matters to people across the region and across the country. With help from our grassroots supporters, we can show that saving Snake River fish is relevant from the Pacific Ocean continental shelf to the Rocky Mountain continental divide. We expect to see regular updates from Murray and Inslee on their progress.
It is time for other officials to step forward as well. The leadership of Reps. Simpson and Blumenauer, Govs. Brown and Inslee, and Sen. Murray should show the rest of the Northwest Congressional delegation that it is time to take a head-on approach to this issue. Salmon and steelhead are in dire straits. The Southern Resident orcas that depend on them are disappearing from the coast. Native American Tribes —– who reserved the right to fish in exchange for their ancestral lands —– have endured broken promises and injustice over more than a century of fish population decline.
2022 is the year to reverse these trends. For those who care about salmon, orcas, and Tribal justice, now is the time to advocate. For leaders who claim to care about these things, now is the time for action. Together, we can make 2022 a year for salmon, and for so much more.
Take action for Idaho’s salmon today! Let Northwest leaders know that the time is now for Tribal justice and real salmon restoration.