Obama administration embraces Bush salmon plan on Columbia-Snake rivers

American Rivers says plan fails to meet needs of salmon and communities

September 15th, 2009

Michael Garrity, 206-213-0330 x11

Seattle — The Obama administration’s decision to accept the Columbia and Snake river salmon plan developed under the Bush administration is bad news for the basin’s endangered salmon, communities, and the region as a whole, American Rivers said today. It will now be up to federal Judge James Redden to determine whether the plan passes legal muster. 

American Rivers and its partners have worked for the past decade to restore the basin’s salmon runs and revitalize local economies through a comprehensive salmon recovery plan that includes removing four outdated dams on the lower Snake River. The Bush plan now being defended in court by the new administration does not include a serious plan to prepare for dam removal – an action scientists say is critical if Snake River salmon runs are to be restored to healthy, self-sustaining populations.  In defending the plan, the Obama administration promised to consider dam removal as a remote contingency, but studies on how best to remove the dams would not trigger unless salmon populations fall far lower than existing numbers, which for most are already far below recovery targets.  The plan considers any population improvements, no matter how small, acceptable over the next ten years, even if the fish run remains at critically low numbers. 

Michael Garrity, Washington Conservation Director for American Rivers, made the following statement:

“Unfortunately, the new administration has kept the 2008 Bush salmon plan intact, which sets the bar so low that many Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead runs will remain at a high risk of extinction.  The communities and businesses that depend on healthy salmon runs are incredibly disappointed.”

“Our hope is that Judge Redden will see this insufficient plan for what it is and reject it, spurring the administration and congressional leaders to convene real salmon recovery negotiations with people in the region.”

“American Rivers is dedicated to working with the administration and regional leaders to craft a lasting solution for the lower Snake River and local communities. The status quo is not working and climate change will only intensify the crisis in the coming years.”

“A free-flowing lower Snake River will allow salmon and steelhead better access to the largest, most intact block of salmon spawning habitat in the lower 48 states.  And Snake River salmon also have the highest elevation salmon habitat in the world, which – if the impacts of the dams are addressed – means they are some of the most likely salmon runs in the lower 48 to thrive in the face of a changing climate.”

“The people of the Northwest want a future with healthy rivers, wild salmon, good jobs, and clean energy. Removing the four lower Snake dams and replacing their benefits by investing in upgraded energy and transportation infrastructure is an essential part of this future.” 


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.