Taking Action to Protect Willamette River Salmon and Steelhead.
3rd of Nov 2017
Advocates for the West warned federal water managers of our intent to sue to protect threatened Upper Willamette River Chinook and steelhead from harm caused by numerous dams throughout the Upper Willamette River basin in Oregon.
On Thursday, our Portland office sent a notice of intent to sue to the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) on behalf of the Native Fish Society, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and WildEarth Guardians. We warned the Corps that the agency must do more to protect these imperiled species from extinction.
Historically, around 300,000 Chinook and 200,000 steelhead made their way up Willamette Falls to spawn in the upper river basins. This year, an estimated 5,000 Chinook and 822 steelhead returned – 99% less than historical numbers. A major cause of the species’ precipitous decline is the Corps’ operation of thirteen dams on the Upper Willamette River and its tributaries. These tall dams and their large reservoirs block up to 90% of spawning habitat on some rivers and make it nearly impossible for fish to migrate up and downstream.
In 2008, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined that the Corps was likely to jeopardize the survival and recovery of these threatened fish species unless the agency made substantial changes to its dams, reservoirs, water management, and hatcheries. While the Corps has made some progress, it has delayed or missed key deadlines to improve conditions for these fish, most notably requirements to provide downstream passage for juvenile fish through the agency’s dams and reservoirs. As a result, these species have slipped even closer to extinction. We are asking the Corps to work expeditiously with NMFS to develop a new plan to reform dam management in the basin before it is too late to save these iconic species.
“Everyone in the Northwest that values healthy rivers and forests and fills their glasses with clean drinking water from wild places, ultimately share common cause with our wild salmon and steelhead, which are the silver thread that holds our region’s ecosystems together,” said Mark Sherwood, Executive Director of the Native Fish Society. “To protect the integrity of our home and our homewaters, federal dam operators in the Willamette River basin must act now to protect our native fish.”
If the Corps fails to take action in response to our notice letter within sixty days, we will keep fighting by filing suit to protect these imperiled wild fish from the threat of extinction.