The Snake River in the Pacific Northwest is the nation’s ‘most endangered river’ of 2021
- The loss of salmon in the Snake River is an existential threat to Northwest tribes who depend on the fish for their cultures and identities.
- Rivers are among the most degraded ecosystems on the planet.
- The rivers on the list aren't the nation's "worst" or most polluted rivers.
A man fishes for salmon in the Snake River above the Lower Granite Dam on Oct. 19, 2016, in Washington. The Snake River was named the nation's most endangered river by the environmental group American Rivers. (Photo: Jesse Tinsley, AP)
The Snake River in the Pacific Northwest is the nation’s most endangered river of 2021, according to a report released Tuesday by the environmental advocacy group American Rivers.
“Rarely has a river been in such need of bold, swift action than the Pacific Northwest’s Snake River,” American Rivers said in a statement. “Once the largest salmon producer in the Columbia River Basin, today Snake River salmon runs are at the brink of extinction. The loss of salmon is an existential threat to Northwest tribes who depend on the fish for their cultures and identities.”
Salmon are a crucial component of the Northwest’s economy. Recreational fishing in the Pacific Northwest generates more than $5.3 billion a year in economic benefits and supports more than 36,000 jobs, according to American Rivers.
The report suggests that to solve the problem, removing four dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington is essential, along with increasing flow over downstream dams. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, proposed a $33.5 billion framework to remove the dams, recover salmon and revitalize the region’s infrastructure and economy.
His proposal includes investments to replace the energy produced at the dams and increase the energy grid’s reliability and upgrade transportation and irrigation services that the lower Snake River dams provide, the report says.
Such a project would be the biggest river and salmon restoration effort in history.
American Rivers President and CEO Tom Kiernan said that “on the Snake River, we have an opportunity for the greatest river restoration effort the world has ever seen. A well-crafted, comprehensive solution would be a down payment on a future of abundance and prosperity in the Pacific Northwest.”
The rivers on the list aren’t the nation’s “worst” or most polluted rivers. According to American Rivers, three factors put rivers on the list:
Over the years, publicity about the top 10 list has helped spur many successes, including the removal of outdated dams and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.
“Rivers are among the most degraded ecosystems on the planet, and threats to rivers are threats to human health, safety and survival,” Kiernan said in a statement. “If we want a future of clean water and healthy rivers everywhere, for everyone, we must prioritize environmental justice.”
The top 10 most endangered rivers of 2021
American Rivers has compiled an annual list of the nation’s most endangered rivers since 1984. Here’s the 2021 list:
The most endangered rivers of 2021, according to American Rivers. (Photo: American Rivers)
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