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
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Come work alongside everyday Montanans to project our clean air, water, and build thriving communities! Competitive salary, health insurance, pension, generous vacation time and sabbatical....
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Colorado Trout Unlimited seeks an individual with successful development experience, strong interpersonal skills, and a deep commitment to coldwater conservation to serve as the organization's...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Now hiring a full-time, remote Program Director for the Society for Wilderness Stewardship! Come help us promote excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship,...
  • WYOMING COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS COORDINATOR
    The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is seeking Coordinator to implement public education and advocacy campaigns in the Cowboy State to unite and amplify hunter, angler,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...