Free the Snake: Restoring America’s Greatest Salmon River

Free the Snake: Restoring America’s Greatest Salmon River


Free the Snake
Restoring America’s Greatest Salmon River “If you are against a dam, you are for a river” If you think about the way a river works in a landscape, it essentially functions as the circulatory system. It drains the waste products off of the land. And that sediment builds habitat in rivers and then once it gets to the coast it builds beaches, it creates the offshore environments. That flow of material is incredibly important ecologically. And building dams disrupts that. But there is another aspect to rivers, flowing back upstream that most people don’t usually think about. And in the Northwest that’s greatly mediated by salmon. Because when salmon leave their native streams they’re small. When they come back a couple of years later, they are huge. They put on 90% – 95% of their body mass in the marine environment. That means that for a large fish run, the kind of fish runs we had historically in the Northwest, you can think of as a nitrogen pump that’s scavenging food out of the oceans and bringing it back on land. It feeds the bugs, the trees in the forest, they feed the eagles, they feed the bears, essentially fertilizing their own world. Anything that blocks a river, like a dam does, limits their access to a part of the world that they need to complete their life cycle. The four dams in the Snake River, in the upper reaches of the Columbia basin, are excessive. And I believe they are largely responsible for the destruction of salmon runs that extended all the way up into the Rocky Mountains of Idaho. The Snake River basin holds today the largest remaining pristine salmon habitat left in the lower 48 states. We are talking over 5,000 miles of stream habitat in central Idaho alone. If we took out the four lower Snake River dams, salmon and steelhead would have access back into all those areas. There should not be four dams on the lower Snake River, choking out the most important wildest salmon refuge left. 5,500 miles of high-elevation streams, more resistance to global warming than any other watershed. If the salmon runs were restored, that would be the starting point for this unbelievable wilderness nexus that is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Dams change the habitat. When you disturb the habitat, it can be bad for the native fishes and good for non-native fishes. The river is no longer a river, it’s a lake. And the lakes are full of predators that like to eat the salmon smolt. The Pacific Northwest right now, according to “The Oregonian” newspaper, spends a billion dollars a year on salmon recovery. And they are not getting very much for it. There are study after study now, that are showing that hatcheries on the river reduce the survival of the wild fish. The primary purpose for these dams always was transportation. It was to make Lewiston, Idaho a seaport. The only reason — it’s barely cheaper to send wheat down the river rather than putting it on the railroad which runs right along the river — is because of the subsidies. Given the fiscal condition of this country, the budget issues, now is the time simply to remove that subsidy. And the wheat growers will do very well on the railroad. A dam is a means to an end, but we’ve got it backwards now. We look at them as end-states: they are built, they are there, they’ll stay there forever. Their intent was to increase the economic output of a region in the country. When they stop doing that, they are no longer viable. The work we’ve done on the economics shows that if you keep the dams, the national economy loses at least 150 million dollars a year. These four dams are very expensive to operate. As soon as they diverge from that end-state, it’s time to re-think. We need another tool, like wind energy or solar panels. The dam is a means, not an end. The beautiful thing about salmon is that if you look at their history, they are incredibly resilient. If we give them half a chance, they can come back. When you remove the dam, and the river becomes a river again. The complexity begins to reappear. There is the ripple effect of restoration, that moves all the way through the river basin, all the way upstream. The removal of lower Snake River dams is one of the big jewels embedded in the Holy Grail of salmon recovery. It would be the biggest watershed restoration in North America, maybe on Earth, if we did this. The largest possible salmon recovery that humanity could achieve, would be simply to remove those four dams. Free the Snake. Sign the petition.

Randy Schultz

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18 thoughts on “Free the Snake: Restoring America’s Greatest Salmon River

  1. JJ Best says:

    @Patagonia – Can you link the petition, please?

  2. nicolasvi1 says:

    Free the Salmon listen to the experts.

  3. Travis Wall says:

    @Patagonia The link in the description is broken, and can you link the petition please? Great video, love you guys!

  4. Daniel Kelly Brown says:

    Nice film! You should pop 2-10% warp stabilize on that wale clip.

  5. keekeemyfirstcat says:

    Breech the dams, but will have to replace the power that is generated from the dams and put in place plentiful alternative avenues for transportation of goods.

  6. Missouri Trout Hunter says:

    Who the heck gave this video a thumbs down? A dam owner?

  7. Kyle Thiermann says:

    Great video.

  8. Kellan Hunter says:

    awesome.

  9. Robert Canalas says:

    Great film Patagonia! What is this song?

  10. Francis Scheuer says:

    Excellently fashioned film forwarding a regenerative cause.

  11. Cindy Acosta says:

    Govegan! 🐟🐟🐠🐠🐡🐡🐡🐳🐳🐬🐬🐬

  12. Peggy Oki says:

    BREACH the 4 lower Snake River Dams! Full list of contacts and action options here for 🐳Tokitae/Lolita's family, Tahlequah & all PNW Resident Orcas💙please TAKE ACTION & "Share" ~Thank you!
    https://www.facebook.com/OrigamiWhalesProject/photos/a.154422874662318.26803.143442629093676/1619391171498807/?type=3&theater

  13. Peggy Oki says:

    "A typed or hand-written letter carries the most weight with any recipient." SEND LETTERS to SAVE the last 75 ENDANGEREDSouthern Resident Orcas!
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10214962633650687&set=oa.914376905421304&type=3&theater&ifg=1
    #OrigamiWhalesProject #16425DaysASlave

  14. Andy Christophi says:

    #BreachTheDams – Do it NOW "Governor Inslee,and General Todd Semonite have the power to end this devastation and destruction today. We have to ask ourselves why is this not being done. Why the voices of the people are not being heard,and respected. The time is now for our Southern Resident Killer Whales. There is no more time for these half hearted attempt's to pretend what they are doing is making a difference. The only thing that will bring back the salmon,and recover our Orcas is the breaching of the 4 lower dams on the Snake River. No more excuses."

  15. Andy Christophi says:

    "Look what they are doing to our wild salmon,the very food our Southern Resident Killer Whales need to live. Our orcas are now on their way to extinction, and they refuse to breach these useless dams. This is what they are doing to the SRKW,and to us all. These orcas will be lost to all future generations ,forever. Governor Inslee and General Todd Semonite have the power to end this devastation and destruction today. We have to ask ourselves why is this not being done. Why the voices of the people are not being heard, and respected. The time is now for our Southern Resident Killer Whales. There is no more time for these half hearted attempt's to pretend what they are doing is making a difference. The only thing that will bring back the salmon and recover our Orcas is the breaching of the 4 lower dams on the Snake River. No more excuses. We all know Governor Jay Inslee that you and General Todd Semonite of the Army Corp of Engineers can make this happen, now. Are you going to look the millions of us in the face one day, knowing the loss and devastation you have allowed to happen to all of us and all future generations. The loss of the great Southern Resident Killer Whales. The choice is yours to do the right thing for the people who trusted you. When the SRKW are gone, or past the point of recovery, you one day will have to answer to the people, to yourself when you look in the mirror, and to God when you stand before Him. Millions of people ,who care, who love these orcas, are begging you to do the right thing. Please just do the right thing!" September 2018

  16. Causeway Effects says:

    my tears are in that river

  17. Lou Landry says:

    OK. Let's do it. Do it now! Now! Now!

  18. Matthew Rittenbach says:

    It will wreak the environment to remove all of the dams. How will we create all that electricity we will lose? With coal or gas plants? Not to mention we have had a record salmon return every year for the last 5 years.

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