Our side, the side for wild salmon and biodiversity and people in the Pacific Northwest, won its fifth lawsuit in federal court against the action agencies and NOAA's federal recovery or BiOp plans to restore threatened and endangered wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia/Snake basins. The judge ordered the various agencies who are currently presiding over the extinction of wild salmonids in the Snake River Basin to go through the NEPA process and use the Endangered Species Act in coming up with its next plan to restore wild salmonids and that this plan should consider breaching one or more of the four lower Snake River dams.
All of that is relatively good news, but we've still got four lower Snake River dams killing juvenile salmon and steelhead on their way out to sea and killing adult salmon and steelhead on their way back to their natal streams. Adults are dying in the hot water in those reservoirs, last year we lost more than 90 percent of the entire Columbia/Snake rivers sockeye run due to lethally hot water. The juveniles, well they used to ride freshets to the sea, and when they did that before the dams, the first real slack water they would hit would be the estuary at the mouth of the Columbia River. Since 1938, juvenile salmon and steelhead upstream of Bonneville Dam have been dealing with slackwater nowhere near the Pacific Ocean. For the past 41 years, the real killing field for juvenile salmon coming out of Idaho's, some of Eastern Washington and Oregon's streams has been occurring in the Lewiston/Clarkston area. When those juvenile salmon go to sea, the ride the current backward. When they hit the slackwater between Asotin, Wash., and Clarkston, Wash., and Lewiston, Idaho on the Snake River they are confused and there they are met by predators, some native like northern pikeminnow who have enjoyed the creation of reservoirs, and some nonnative predators put in the Snake River by state fish and game agencies hoping to improve fishing for anglers by adding smallmouth bass and walleye (great fish to catch and in the walleye's case the best freshwater fish to eat in my opinion), but these additional predators feast on these juvenile salmon and steelhead as they hit the slackwater of the Lower Granite Reservoir. Juvenile Salmon and steelhead also hit the slackwater on the Clearwater River around the paper mill in Lewiston.
This year's flotilla will be paddling over the ghosts of literally hundreds of millions of wild juvenile salmon and steelhead that failed to adapt to our changing of their migration corridor. We altered their habitat to industrialize the rivers and in doing so we made a choice, whether conscience of it at the time or not, that we were choosing industry over salmon. But we were sold a lemon and mankind to this day fails to recognize the value of biodiversity, riverine habitat, ecosystems, nature itself. We lie to ourselves about economy and what is better economical when we never have factored in the true value of all of those things we decide to destroy and replace with our destructive engineering. And nowhere is that more evident than it is on the lower Snake River and this flotilla, Sept. 17, will take you over hallowed water, haunted water. This is a place of great loss. Should we ever live to see the day when the Snake River is freed from its concrete confines, we will see the watersheds connected to this place experience a great rebirth, but until then our watersheds, ecosystems and biodiversity continue to decline, continue to die. Remember where you are paddling when you come to the flotilla on that Saturday in September. That water is hallowed, that water is haunted by the ghosts of wild salmon and steelhead who cannot speak for themselves, so you must. Get your kayak, your canoe, your raft, your boat, your stand-up paddle board and join the flotilla Sept. 17. It is past time to Free the Snake. Remember to register here.
This is a peaceful protest and an effort to bring attention to the plight of wild salmonids in the Snake River Basin. It was heartening to witness the flotilla last year and I suspect that it will have a restorative value to those who value the environment and who are conservation-minded should they participate and I hope you do. It is a good cause, perhaps a lost cause, but as Jimmy Stewart's character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was always fond of reminding others what his father said that those lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for and we fight for wild salmonids by shedding light on their plight in a way that shows we desire there to be some real, positive change through legal means for wild salmonids, their watersheds and the people and flora and fauna who rely upon them.