Save America’s Wildlife

Dam removal still an option as lower Snake River litigation settlement talks continue

Ongoing talks and Biden Administration engagement on creating recovery action plans for Columbia and Snake River Basin salmon is encouraging

Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River.
Bonneville Power Administration | Public Domain
The Ice Harbor Dam on the lower Snake River is one of the dams that gets in the way of migrating salmon.

Yesterday, parties in an ongoing lawsuit over the operations of the Snake River dams agreed to another 45 day stay in litigation to continue settlement talks about how Columbia and Snake River Basin salmon can be restored to abundance.

The lawsuit against five federal agencies was brought on by a coalition of fishing, conservation, and renewable energy groups, Northwest Tribal nations including the Nez Perce Tribe and the Couer d’Alene Tribe, and the state of Oregon. The litigation is centered around the federal governments obligation to restore endangered salmon under the Endangered Species Act, and meet federal treaty obligations.

Litigants will have until December 15, 2023 to work out a proposed package and commitment to restore Snake River salmon, and request a multi-year stay while plan is implemented, otherwise they will return to court.

Many Snake River salmon and steelhead populations are on a path to extinction, including the Chinook salmon that Southern Resident orcas rely on for the main staple of their diet.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommended in their 2022 report that breaching the lower Snake River dams is “essential” to avoid Snake River salmon extinction and rebuild these populations to abundance.

This litigation stay comes on the heels of the Biden Administration’s recently issued Presidential Memorandum, which directs federal agencies to use their resources to help restore ‘healthy and abundant’ salmon populations.

We are are encouraged by the Biden Administration’s commitment to salmon recovery and urge federal leaders to develop and implement a recovery plan with urgency.

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