A guide to the players

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, The salmon win one.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built and operates four federal dams on the lower Snake River, and four more on the Columbia River. Fishery agencies estimate these dams and reservoirs account for about 95 percent of all human-caused mortality to Snake River salmon.

The Bonneville Power Administration markets electricity produced by the dams. Of the three federal hydro agencies, BPA is the most active politically.

The Bureau of Reclamation built and operates Grand Coulee Dam on the upper Columbia, and several dams on the upper Snake River in Idaho. These projects are located above current salmon habitat, but can provide water to boost flow levels downstream through the Army Corps projects.

The National Marine Fisheries Service implements the Endangered Species Act for marine species, which include Pacific salmon and steelhead. NMFS has authority under the act to approve or order changes in federal hydrosystem operations. Since Snake River salmon were listed in 1992, NMFS has focused its authority almost exclusively on increasing upstream water releases for salmon flows. It has not ordered structural changes at the dams themselves, and has allowed the Army Corps to intensify barging of juvenile salmon rather than promote in-river migration.

NMFS must also develop a recovery plan for Snake River salmon; the first draft from its recovery team emphasized salmon barging, while de-emphasizing "major overhaul" of the hydrosystem for explicitly economic reasons. Judge Marsh's call for just such an overhaul now casts doubt on the lawfulness of that draft. A final recovery plan is perhaps a year away.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has various authorities for salmon, but not Endangered Species Act authority. To the extent the "federal family" concept has allowed, FWS has been the primary scientific critic of juvenile salmon barging - a position in accord with the state and tribal position but at variance with its fellow federal fishery agency, NMFS.

The White House's overt involvement in Columbia Basin salmon has so far been restricted to observation of events from within the Office on Environmental Policy. There has been no attempt, at least visibly, to guide or ensure united policy by bringing all the above agencies together.

The Fish Passage Center is operated by three state fishery agencies and the Columbia River's four treaty Indian tribes. It monitors how well or badly juvenile and adult salmon are faring as they navigate the hydrosystem, and it requests specific operations at the dams (water releases, spill, etc.) to aid salmon migration. The center can only request, not order, such operations from the Army Corps.

High Country News Classifieds
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    Seeking qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating, implementing and managing land conservation activities,...
  • REGIONAL TRAIL STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with trail maintenance and volunteer engagement...
  • TRAIL CREW MEMBER
    Position Title: Trail Crew Member Position Type: 6 month seasonal position, April 17-October 15, 2023 Location: Field-based; The RFOV office is in Carbondale, CO, and...
  • CEO BUFFALO NATIONS GRASSLANDS ALLIANCE
    Chief Executive Officer, Remote Exempt position for Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance is responsible for the planning and organization of BNGA's day-to-day operations
  • IDAHO DIRECTOR - WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT
    Western Watersheds Project seeks an Idaho Director to continue and expand upon WWP's campaign to protect and restore public lands and wildlife in Idaho, with...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Development Director to join our team in supporting and furthering our mission. This position will create...
  • DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Operations Director to join our team. This position will provide critical organizational and systems support to...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) is seeking a leader to join our dynamic team in the long-term protection of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). We...
  • GRASSLAND RESEARCH COORDINATOR
    The Grassland Research Coordinator is a cooperative position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that performs and participates in and coordinates data collection for...
  • HYDROELECTRIC PLANT
    1.3 MW FERC licensed hydroelectric station near Taylorsville CA. Property is 184 deeded acres surrounded by National Forrest.
  • "PROFILES IN COURAGE: STANDING AGAINST THE WYOMING WIND"
    13 stories of extraordinary courage including HCN founder Tom Bell, PRBRC director Lynn Dickey, Liz Cheney, People of Heart Mountain, the Wind River Indian Reservation...
  • GRANT WRITER
    JOB DESCRIPTION: This Work involves the responsibility of conducting research in the procurement of Federal, State, County, and private grant funding. Additional responsibilities include identifying...
  • MATADOR RANCH STEWARD
    The Matador Ranch Steward conducts annual stewardship projects at the Matador Ranch Preserve and occasionally supports stewardship projects elsewhere in Montana's Northern Great Plains. The...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League is seeking a motivated individual to help build public support for key strategic initiatives in northern Idaho through public outreach and...
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Foundation seeks a steward/educator to lead backcountry volunteer projects and community outreach. FT $36k-$40k, competitive time off. ALSO HIRING OPERATIONS MANAGER. More...
  • ASSISTANT RANCH OPERATIONS MANAGER
    WANTED: ASSISTANT RANCH OPERATIONS MANAGER ~ UTAH/COLORADO border ~ Looking to immediately hire an experienced and clean hardworker to join us on a beautiful, very...
  • ASPIRE COLORADO SUSTAINABLE BODY AND HOME CARE PRODUCTS
    Go Bulk! Go Natural! Our products are better for you and better for the environment. Say no to single-use plastic. Made in U.S.A., by a...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in the natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau, with lodge and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.