The Northwest Power and Conservation Council has taken a very significant step toward the vision of reintroducing salmon and steelhead above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams. October adoption of their 2014 Fish and Wildlife Program, which directs more than $250 million per year to mitigate the impacts of hydropower dams on fish and wildlife in the Columbia River Basin, calls for studies to investigate passage and reintroduction of these fish that previously traveled to and from the Pacific before these two dams were built.

The Council envisions a phased approach that begins next year with studies to:

  • evaluate what’s been learned from other blocked passages as well as previous passage assessments for reintroduction into the Upper Columbia;
  • investigate habitat and other needs necessary for survival;
  • consider the costs and feasibility of possible upstream and downstream passage options.

This approach is similar to a proposal from Columbia Basin tribes and Canadian First Nations (see newsletter article below). When studies are completed by the end of 2016, the Council will consider how to best proceed.

Said Tom Karier, Washington Council Member, “The Council has decided to pursue a science-based approach as we investigate the feasibility of reintroduction.”