Serving Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey, Bellevue and Carey
March 26, 2023
Only 6.7% of sockeye salmon that had been tagged as juveniles were able to make the final leg of their journey from Lower Granite Dam near Lewiston to the Sawtooth Basin in the fall of 2021, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game reported on Friday. About 50% reach the Sawtooth Basin from Lower Granite in a normal year.
Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead are on the brink of extinction, including the Sawtooth sockeye, which travel 900 miles from the Pacific Ocean to spawn at the nearby headwaters of the Salmon River.
This endangered species has so far miraculously survived despite running a gauntlet of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. But with climate change and invasive species exacerbating impacts on the resilient species, which is sacred and fundamental to Native American cultures in the region, many advocates are calling for removal of four dams on the lower Snake River to ensure salmon survival.
A panel discussion during the 7th Annual Sun Valley Forum on Wednesday, June 8, at 11:45 at the Argyros Performing Arts Center will address the connection between electricity generation and salmon recovery. The talk is titled “Constructing Resilient Energy Systems: Salmon and Electricity in the Pacific Northwest.
Mitch Cutter, salmon and steelhead associate for the Idaho Conservation League, will moderate the discussion. Speakers include Chantel Greene, CEO and founder of Xexus Greene Energy and a member of the Nez Perce Tribe; Jim Norton, energy consultant and project coordinator for Columbia Rediviva; and Russ Thurow, research fisheries scientist for the US Forest Service.
According to program notes, the hydroelectric dams that impede salmon migration are “increasingly irrelevant.” A recent plan was promoted by Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson to remove dams from the lower Snake River. This panel’s experts will discuss how to restore salmon to abundance and move the Northwest’s energy system “into the 21st century” at the same time.
Cutter said salmon and steelhead are impacted by the Northwest’s energy system’s hydroelectric dams, which impound rivers into reservoirs, creating a gauntlet of obstacles that fish face as they migrate downstream and then back up.
“Climate change is affecting both salmon and energy,” Cutter said. “Warmer water temperatures exacerbate the effects of these reservoirs on salmon, killing them in polluted waters filled with non-native species. River flows are also changing, so there’s less water (and generation) in the late summer, when demand is highest.”
Cutter said the lower Snake River dams stand out because of their significant role in pushing wild Snake River salmon toward extinction, and their minor role in the Northwest energy system.
“While other Columbia Basin fish populations are holding steady, Snake River salmon and steelhead are in decline,” Cutter said. “The only difference for these fish is that they must pass eight dams, instead of 3 to 5, like other fish in the region. The dams produce only about 4% of the region’s electricity, more than half of which is generated in the spring, when the region already has significant surplus energy.”
The panel discussion will focus on this nexus, and how to move forward by building resilience in salmon populations and the regional energy system.
“The Snake River and its tributaries is a stronghold for salmon against the effects of climate change. Similarly, our energy system can become a stronghold through development of diversified, clean energy resources,” Cutter said.
The Sun Valley Forum was founded in 2015 by the Sun Valley Institute for Resilience, established by Aimée Christensen to gather global leaders across industry and innovation, finance and government, advocacy and the arts, to share strategies and spark connections to accelerate resilience regionally and around the world.
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I love Salmon, but - how about the article in this weeks mt express that just linked chemical pesticides to cancer in humans, any concern there people?
Wild Mountain lions are endangered as well and with that Blaine county having lions trapped and killed as being a “native” species for killing a “non” native animals running at “large” should be questioned on their Hypocrisy .
Will the Sun Valley Forum explore connections between endangered salmon, sea lion populations and gill net masses in the Columbia River and tributaries?
Good question Jim. The federal hydro system that Idaho's juvenile salmonids face (Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental, Ice Harbor, McNary, The Dalles, John Day, Bonneville dams and their 450 miles of reservoir) kills 50% of the 24 million leaving Idaho yearly. Of those lucky not not die within the system, (see Table 6 http://bluefish.org/Schaller.pdf) 75% die soon thereafter from that arduous, UNNATURAL migration. In 2021, USACE reports pinnipeds take a much smaller percent of the adult run returning: 0.2% Fall Chinook, 3.3% Spring Chinook, Steelhead (Apr-May) 7.2% (Aug-Dec) 0.2%, Coho 0.3%.
Do you know the impact... percentage of loss, reports and graphs related to sea lion depredation and gill net masses (not natural) on salmon runs in the Columbia?
re: the highly regulated fishing of hatchery-origin salmon and steelhead, natural-origin fish must be released "On May 18 (2022) the Compact approved a one-day non-treaty commercial tangle net fishery on the mainstem below Bonneville Dam. Tangle nets are alternative gear to gillnets, reducing bycatch of non-targeted fish.
There wasn’t much interest by the gillnetters (using tangle nets) in pursuing this fishery. Landings on May 23 totaled 19 adult Chinook, 3,201 shad, and no sturgeon. Staff estimates there were 40 adult Chinook released, 6 released steelhead (4 unmarked), and 1 released sockeye. Total upriver spring Chinook mortalities are estimated to be 25 (0.004% ESA impact rate) and total steelhead mortalities was 1 fish.
The Compact staff recommended another two periods of tangle net fishing below Bonneville Dam, but Tucker Jones, Oregon’s representative on the Compact, rejected the proposal, saying sockeye are beginning to enter the river, including endangered Snake River sockeye. Though Washington’s Charlene Hurst favored a shortened time as way to gather data on the impacts of a tangle net fishery in June for future years’ use, Jones held fast. No further mainstem non-treaty commercial fishing was approved." (Columbia Basin Bulletin 6/3/22)
A quick study, as a non professional fisheries expert (which makes me impartial), tells me the sea lion population, a non native yet protected species in the Columbia River and it's tributaries, is the ELEPHANT in the ROOM; contributing greatly to salmon depredation. It seem's this 'Forum' may be a political effort to simply blame the dams. The one day... gill net, tangle net... special fishing circumstances and such seems subjective... if not another distraction.
For some reason they want to push everyone to electric cars and ban electric productivity like dams. Solar and wind is not enough but they won't start new types of electric production. It is really strange, for weeks now they have been saying to expect rolling blackouts this summer because we don't have enough electric to fill the needs of today but at the same time say everything has to change to electric. It is like shooting yourself in the foot when you are aiming at your foot.
Jim, this comment section does not upload images so you will need to place this url in your browser. It reveals what the scientist at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have to say about the myriad sources of salmon mortality. http://bluefish.org/Mortality_Wild_Spring_Chinook.jpg
Welcome to the discussion.