Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead trout are on the brink of extinction, including sawtooth sockeye, which travel 900 miles from the Pacific Ocean to spawn at nearby headwaters of the Salmon River. .
This endangered species has so far miraculously survived despite running a gauntlet of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. But with climate change and invasive species exacerbating the impacts on resilient species, which are sacred and fundamental to Native American cultures in the region, many advocates are calling for the removal of four dams on the lower Snake River to ensure the survival of the Salmon.
A panel discussion at the 7th Annual Sun Valley Forum on Wednesday, June 8 at 11:45 a.m. at the Argyros Performing Arts Center will address the connection between power generation and salmon recovery. The conference is titled “Building Resilient Energy Systems: Salmon and Power in the Pacific Northwest”.
Mitch Cutter, Salmon and Rainbow Trout Associate for the Idaho Conservation League, will moderate the discussion. Speakers include Chantel Greene, CEO and Founder of Xexus Greene Energy and member of the Nez Perce Tribe; Jim Norton, energy consultant and project coordinator for Columbia Rediviva; and Russ Thurow, fisheries research scientist for the US Forest Service.
According to the program notes, hydroelectric dams that impede salmon migration are “increasingly irrelevant.” A recent plan was promoted by Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson to remove dams from the lower Snake River. Experts on this panel will discuss how to restore salmon abundance and bring the North West’s energy system “into the 21st century” at the same time.
Cutter said salmon and rainbow trout are impacted by hydroelectric dams in the Northwest Energy System, which hold back rivers in reservoirs, creating a gauntlet of obstacles that fish face when they migrate downstream and then rise.
“Climate change affects both salmon and energy,” Cutter said. “Warmer water temperatures exacerbate the effects of these reservoirs on salmon, killing them in polluted waters filled with non-native species. River flows also change, so there is less water (and production) in late summer, when demand is highest.
Cutter said the lower Snake River dams stand out because of their important role in driving wild Snake River salmon to extinction and their minor role in the Northwest’s energy system.
“While other fish populations in the Columbia Basin are holding up, Snake River salmon and rainbow trout are in decline,” Cutter said. “The only difference for these fish is that they have to cross eight barriers, instead of 3 to 5, like the other fish in the region. The dams produce only about 4% of the region’s electricity, more than half of which is produced in the spring, when the region already has large energy surpluses.
The roundtable will focus on this link and how to move forward in building the resilience of salmon populations and the regional energy system.
“The Snake River and its tributaries are a stronghold for salmon against the effects of climate change. Likewise, our energy system can become a stronghold through the development of diversified and clean energy resources,” Cutter said.
The Sun Valley Forum was founded in 2015 by the Sun Valley Institute for Resilience, created by Aimée Christensen to bring together global leaders from industry and innovation, finance and government, advocacy and the arts, to to share strategies and create connections to accelerate resilience at and around the regional level. the world.