Northwest RiverPartners Supports Goals of Four Governors; Asks for Scientific Grounding to Ensure Best Outcome
Today, the governors of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana released a
joint letter (see attached) committing to an effort to help recover threatened and
endangered salmonid species in the Columbia River Basin.
The governors have expressed their desire to continue the work of the Columbia
Basin Partnership (CBP). Established by NOAA Fisheries in 2017, the objective
of the CBP was to bring together regional stakeholders to create a shared vision
for salmon abundance goals and to discuss measures that could help achieve
those goals. While the CBP was able to agree on abundance goals, it was not
able to find broad agreement on solutions.
The new multi-year effort signified by the governors’ letter will establish
processes and decision-making groups to attempt to find solid and practicable
solutions to the challenges facing struggling salmon populations.
Northwest RiverPartners is supportive of the goals included in the four governors’
letter but asks that the process specifically be tasked with providing scientific
rigor. While there are many stakeholders who genuinely believe that dams have
been the limiting factor in salmon recovery, recent research has shown that this
anti-dam conclusion is not scientifically founded.
Fisheries researcher Lisa Crozer stated that scientists are seeing “Nearsynchronous declines” in worldwide salmon populations, likely due to the effects
of climate change. These declines include rivers with and without hydroelectric
Two studies released this summer also point to the strong relationship between
climate change, warming oceans, and declining Chinook salmon health.
In its recently released Biological Opinion, NOAA Fisheries showed that climate
change appears to have a much larger effect on salmon survival in the oceans
than in rivers and Chinook salmon may only have 20 to 30 years left in the region
if the observed relationships between warming ocean temperatures and salmon
survival remain steady.
Pointing to a more hostile ocean environment due to climate change and salmon
spending fewer years at sea, scientists at the University of Alaska also found that
the size of Chinook salmon in Alaska’s rivers had declined significantly since
Given the widespread nature of the decline in salmon populations, we encourage
the governors’ process to look more holistically at the shared environment of all
Pacific Salmon, which is the Pacific Ocean. We have to reverse ocean warming if
we are going to save our iconic salmon and orca species.
Addressing climate change is critical not only in terms of the salmon debate but
our region is now also being forced to confront the issue due to the recent and
devastating wildfire event which will tragically go down in Oregon history as the
most intense ever recorded. In a recent interview on the fires, Oregon Gov. Kate
Brown said “This is a wake-up call for all of us that we’ve got to do everything in
our power to tackle climate change.”
We know that hydropower plays a critical role in the Pacific Northwest in our
goals to reduce our carbon footprint. Our region has the least carbon-intensive
electric service territory and the most affordable renewable power in the nation
thanks to its hydropower system.
The governors’ process needs to ensure the vitality of the hydropower system as
a means to help both salmon and people avoid climate-driven disasters.
About Northwest RiverPartners
Northwest RiverPartners (NWRP) is a not-for-profit, member-driven organization.
We represent not-for-profit, community-owned utilities across Washington,
Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Nevada. We also proudly represent
farmers, ports, and businesses across the region that support clean energy and
NWRP is focused on raising awareness about how the Northwest’s hydropower
system betters communities and the natural environment, and we encourage
science-based solutions that help hydropower and salmon coexist and