Ice Harbor Fish Passage Forum
On April 5, our team at the Agriculture & Natural Resource Center of Excellence (ANR COE) made up of Director, Lindsey Williams and Coordinator, Ceana Pacheco attended a tour and forum held at Ice Harbor Lock & Dam on the lower Snake River. Located upstream from McNary Lock & Dam and downstream from Lower Monumental Lock & Dam, Ice Harbor Dam serves as an inland port for agriculture and contributes the regions clean energy sector. The dams along the lower Snake River are intrinsically tied to the regional economy in a myriad of sectors ranging from agriculture to energy.
The Save Our Wild Salmon movement has been rejuvenated by a flood of global orca advocates that support and promote restoration in the Columbia and Snake River systems to improve ecosystem functions that may aid in both salmon and orca recovery, as they are synergistically bound. Calls to breach the lower four Snake River dams have increased as orca populations reached their lowest numbers in over three decades. This conversation has pitted environment vs. economy for decades and it’s crucial that all stakeholders come together to establish common ground to create innovative short-term and long-term solutions to our dynamic dam dilemma through collaboration and innovation. The Ice Harbor Forum on Fish Passage is one of three open forums focusing the conversation on fish passage.
The Ice Harbor Forum on Fish Passage, organized by Don Schwerin (chair of the Ag and Rural Caucus of State Democratic Central Committee) was focused on the topic of breaching the four lower Snake River dams. The forum consisted of two guest speakers, John McKern and Jim Waddell; John a proponent of keeping the dams and Jim an advocate for breaching the four lower Snake River dams. While their collective views on salmon and orca populations clashed, they both ultimately agreed that springtime spills are not a viable management option for juvenile salmon traveling downriver. In the end, John concluded that the dams are not the main cause of salmon and orca declines, while Jim concluded that salmon populations will be “functionally extinct” if the four lower dams aren’t breached within 6 months.
The intersection between ecosystem productivity and salmon health were highlighted by both speakers while views on the breaching dilemma varied. One pivotal commonality was the desire to facilitate an inclusive working discussion around salmon and orca recovery in a safe and informative environment. The forum welcomed a broad audience of representatives stretching from Walla Walla County to Clark County and fostered a Q&A which in turn nurtured the exchange of opinions, ideas, and values. The issues surrounding the dams throughout the entirety of the Columbia River watershed are multifaceted – there will not be a one-size-fits-all solution or an all-or-nothing solution. Balancing the economic, social, and cultural needs of the Columbia and Snake River systems wherein stakeholders from all sectors have their values and interests included in decisions that impact Washington’s vibrant economic, social, and cultural structures will be pivotal in future forums.
The Ice Harbor Dam tour and forum was a great opportunity for our team at ANR COE to observe the conversation and exchange of opinions on both sides of the isle in a reliably unbiased capacity. The Ice Harbor Fish Passage Forum was the first of three forums that the ANR COE plans to attend and will update as information becomes available. If you are interested in joining the conversation, please contact Coordinator [email protected]