Three Northwest rivers are on an annual list of the ten most endangered in the country.
American Rivers says Washington’s Green-Duwamish Chinook and public safety are threatened by outdated flood management, salmon and steelhead on Oregon’s Willamette by fish passage at more than a dozen dam sites, and Idaho’s South Fork Salmon from plans to reopen an old mine that has been cleaned up.
The group calls on local and federal agencies to ensure that the rivers and their fish are safeguarded from more harm.
The Green-Duwamish, which is a Russell Wilson hail Mary away from the offices of Northwest Sportsman, flows through a radically altered lower valley and estuary, with hillside to hillside development and levees straitjacketing it on its way to Elliott Bay.
“The extensive levee system separates the river from its historic floodplain, negatively impacting water quality, reducing rearing habitat and dramatically decreasing the amount of shade-giving trees along the river,” says American Rivers.
They call on the King County Flood Control District to “develop a truly integrated plan” for the lower river, saying that a recently released proposal “intensifies river bank armoring and levee construction, and fails to include habitat restoration goals or specific habitat improvements in its alternatives.”
That plan includes three alternatives, but some have called for a fourth, which would include flood protection while also providing for salmon habitat restoration.
Comments on the flood district’s programatic environmental impact statement for their new plan (which really should include repurposing the Tukwila soccer fields for offchannel salmon habitat) are open through 5 p.m. May 1.
It’s the second time the Green-Duwamish has been on the list in the past few years. The rivers group also calls for improved fish passage at Howard Hanson Dam, on the upper river. A recent federal biological opinion ordered dam operators to provide that.
The battle to get salmon and steelhead into another Northwest river, the Willamette, has been in the news of late as ODFW recently received a federal permit to kill sea lions gathered at the falls. That appeared to be working as euthanizations and good water conditions aligned to get a solid push of wild winter-runs past the gauntlet of pinnipeds in late winter.
But American Rivers is aiming further upstream, at the Army Corps of Engineers, which is doing a deep dive on its 13 dams in the valley. They says the corps “must make structural modifications to the dams to facilitate downstream passage for juvenile salmon” as well as “continue to improve upstream passage for adult fish so that they can gain access to their historic spawning habitat.”
They call on Congress to fund that work.
And they say that when the Payette National Forest releases a DEIS on a Canadian company’s plan to reopen a Central Idaho mine to dig gold and antimony, the Forest Service “must protect the health of, and investment in, the South Fork of the Salmon River, the water quality of the Wild and Scenic Salmon River, and the long-term recovery of endangered fish by prohibiting the reopening and expansion of the Stibnite Mine.”
The South Fork was also on last year’s list, and in 2017, Washington’s Toutle and South Fork Skykomish were, while in 2015 the Columbia and Rogue were on it.