Snake River Salmon Recovery Region

Snake River

Region Facts

Salmon recovery is working in the Snake River region. Water temperatures are cooler, there is more water – with less silt and mud – in our streams, and fish are responding. County commissioners, local citizens, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation updated the plan to recover salmon, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) adopted in 2011. The plan is being implemented aggressively by groups like the conservation districts, regional fishery enhancement group, tribes, Department of Fish and Wildlife, and others who are working with private landowners and agencies to restore habitat conditions for salmon, steelhead, and bull trout. Their efforts are showing great promise.

Together, we have restored fish passage to more than 100 miles of rivers, planted millions of trees, removed more than 10 miles of dikes, installed thousands of large wood pieces in streams, placed 50 cubic feet per second of water into trust, and screened more than 1,000 irrigation systems to prevent fish loss. The majority of all this work is occurring on private property. Not only are the fish benefiting from this work, but so is the local economy as hometown employers are creating jobs in our communities.

Salmon recovery is good for economies, communities, and watersheds

Salmon recovery efforts, such as removing dikes, installing large wood in streams, and placing screens on irrigation systems, are often very difficult. But, in southeast Washington, citizens, local elected officials, tribes, and agency staff often talk together about the needs of salmon. They prioritize work and then collaborate on how to make it happen with the organizations and people who can get the job done. This is driven by a locally supported recovery plan and a successful approach that combines the needs of salmon with the needs of the community to find win-win solutions that provide multiple benefits. Our results? The largest hurdles to fish moving upstream are gone now in Pataha Creek, Whiskey Creek, the Touchet River, the Walla Walla River, and in 2013, Asotin Creek. While difficult, we are aggressively advancing fish passage up Mill Creek. And, several miles of dikes no longer inhibit habitat in the Tucannon and Walla Walla Rivers.

Salmon and steelhead fishing in southeast Washington is a large economic engine, generating $50 million annually in direct and indirect expenditures. The work we are doing is crucial, not only to those who enjoy fishing but also to businesses that depend on the fishing industry; to contractors who are employed doing this work; and to surveyors, engineers, scientists, and tourism-dependent jobs.

Fish listed under the Endangered Species Act

  • Sockeye: listed as endangered in 1991
  • Spring Chinook: listed as threatened in 1992
  • Fall Chinook: listed as threatened in 1992
  • Snake River steelhead: listed as threatened in 1997
  • Middle Columbia steelhead: listed as threatened in 1997
  • Bull trout: listed as threatened in 1998

Major Factors Limiting Fish Recovery

  • Degraded floodplain and channel structure
  • Impaired stream flows in tributaries
  • Degraded water quality and temperature
  • Riparian degradation
  • Excessive sediment
  • Mill Creek fish passage
  • Hydropower system fish mortality on Columbia River

Salmon Recovery Organization

The Snake River Salmon Recovery Board was created in 2002 to implement the regional salmon recovery plan and the Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon. The board is a catalyst for salmon recovery, coordinating with tribes, local jurisdictions, federal and state agencies, and members of the public. The board members are made up of county commissioners, tribes, and local citizens. There is one salmon recovery lead entity in the region, which is also the regional recovery organization. Citizens from five counties in southeast Washington work with technical agencies to develop and prioritize projects to be funded.

Recovery Plan Status

  • The Southeast Washington Salmon Recovery plan was adopted by NOAA in 2005. The plan was revised in 2011 and adopted by NOAA in 2012 as the interim recovery plan for the Snake River fish populations.
  • The Middle Columbia Recovery Plan was adopted by NOAA in 2010
  • Strategies, measures, and actions in both plans address habitat, harvest, hydropower, hatcheries, and ecological interactions with the fish
  • Timeframe: 15 years
  • Estimated cost: $206 million for the first 10 years
  • Plan Implementation: Three-year Schedule identifies $44 million in habitat project needs.

Vision Statement

“The board’s vision is to develop and maintain a healthy ecosystem that contributes to the rebuilding of key fish populations by providing abundant, productive, and diverse populations of aquatic species that support the social, cultural, and economic well-being of the communities both within and outside the recovery region.”