I was about 8 years old when I saw my first salmon run. My sweet parents loaded my brother and me into a wood-panel station wagon brimming with camping gear-the green Coleman stove, my flannel-lined sleeping bag, and the Thermos filled with mint tea. And then there I was, peering over the edge of the bridge at Redfish Lake Creek near Stanley, mesmerized by the colors and close-up view of amazing creatures.
Who knew back then that I would be sitting here reflecting about that moment and figuring out how to say to my own children, "Well, back in my day…" without sounding that old.
Idaho is salmon country: we name our rivers, towns and businesses after the fish. Yet it’s true that my children will likely not have the same experience that I did on that day.
As a recent Idaho Statesman editorial pointed out, Mother Nature has been signaling us for decades-as we have continued to throw billions of dollars and resources at the situation, all the while misdiagnosing and missing the real problem. The Statesman got the basics of this situation right in its reporting back in 1997, and now their latest editorial on today’s problems points out the current opportunity that Idahoans and Idaho’s leaders have to take action. The system of dams on the lower Snake River is failing Idaho’s endangered salmon and the people and businesses that depend on them.
Why Is Lower Snake River Dam Removal a Win for Idaho?
Idaho’s wild fish are a keystone species, and restoring the Snake will revitalize fisheries and energize Idaho’s economy.
By removing the dams, we restore the river, which in turn recovers salmon. All of Idaho’s salmon are listed as endangered, with only 2% of populations remaining. In 2015, some of the earliest and hottest weather on record produced warm river temperatures that killed over 90% of all sockeye salmon returning to the Columbia Basin. Idaho has one of the last remaining places in the lower 48 of the high-elevation, colder waters where salmon thrive.
Restoring the river will also energize Idaho’s economy and reduce or eliminate costs. It will provide millions of dollars to north-central and central Idaho through angling alone. The aging dams are losing money, failing ratepayers and taxpayers who spend more to keep the system going. In fact, every dollar spent on keeping the dams results in a loss, and the costs of maintenance and operation are unsustainable. Additionally, bulk shipping out of places like the Port of Lewiston has declined by over two-thirds as rail transport and railways have grown.
You Can Do Something for Salmon Right Now
We are in a critical moment to save wild salmon. After two decades and multiple failed attempts to write a legal and biologically sound plan to keep Idaho’s salmon from extinction, the federal government is trying again and asking for your input. Now is the time to speak up about dam removal, restoration and wild salmon recovery. You can do so today by submitting your comments on our webpage.
Watch underwater footage of sockeye salmon in Idaho’s Redfish Lake (Idaho Department of Fish and Game video):