American Rivers: Progress on the Iconic Columbia

Dams throughout the Columbia watershed continue to cut off salmon from their spawning grounds.

The Columbia River may very well top the list in a conversation about iconic western river systems. Deemed the second most endangered river (2015) by American Rivers, the flows and eddies of the Columbia are far different than the ones paddled by Lewis and Clark in this nations first great western adventure. Outdated dam systems have taken their toll on the once vibrant fishery, but this month featured a huge step towards rehabilitating the river that once hosted salmon runs in excess of 30 million fish.

The Columbia River’s Chief Joseph Damn
Photo by Thomas O’Keefe

Current conversations are focused on the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty with Canada:

“Just recently, some news came out to bolster that hope— in a letter to Senator Patty Murray, the U.S. Department of State indicated that it would include “ecosystem-based function” along with the traditional Treaty purposes of flood risk mitigation and hydropower in its draft negotiating position.”

Such a proposal would offer impressive improvements in domestic and international efforts to restore healthy fish passage past some of the Columbia’s larger dams like Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee.

Now is a great opportunity to get involved in the fight and add a signature to urge the Obama administration to follow through on the State Department’s pledge to pursue ecosystem-based function in the Columbia River Treaty negotiations.

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