According to a report released Tuesday by the environmental advocacy group American Rivers, the Snake River in the Pacific Northwest is the nation’s most endangered river of 2021.
“Rarely has a river been in such need of bold, swift action than the Pacific Northwest’s Snake River,” American Rivers said in a statement. “Once the largest salmon producer in the Columbia River Basin, today Snake River salmon runs are at the brink of extinction.
The loss of salmon is an existential threat to Northwest tribes who depend on the fish for their cultures and identities.”
Salmon are a crucial component of the Northwest’s economy. According to American Rivers, recreational fishing in the Pacific Northwest generates more than $5.3 billion a year in economic benefits and supports more than 36,000 jobs.
The report suggests that removing four dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington is essential, along with increasing flow over downstream dams to solve the problem. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-
Idaho proposed a $33.5 billion framework to remove the dams, recover salmon and revitalize the region’s infrastructure and economy.
His proposal includes investments to replace the energy produced at the dams and increase the energy grid’s reliability and upgrade transportation and irrigation services that the lower Snake River dams provide, the report says.
Such a project would be the most significant river and salmon restoration effort in history.
American Rivers President and CEO Tom Kiernan said that “on the Snake River, we have an opportunity for the greatest river restoration effort the world has ever seen. A well-crafted, comprehensive solution would be a down payment on a future of abundance and prosperity in the Pacific Northwest.”