The excitement continues for the Lower Snake River with the recent release of another independent study regarding its future options.

Hopefully, some thought will also be given to the larger Snake River Basin picture as well both with respect to an “extended temporal (time) focus” as well as to an “extended spatial focus” with both aspects being made part of the discussions.

With respect to the “temporal focus,” the “peak Salmon harvest (catch)” occurred in the 1880s; and has been generally in decline since that time. D.W. Chapman’s 1986 paper regarding Historical Salmon Populations contains a graph showing this decline from the mid-1800s through the mid-1900s. As a temporal reference, the first Lower Snake River project was completed in 1962.

With respect to the “spatial (larger basin) focus,” the water temperatures at three United States Geological Survey gaging stations located upstream of Lower Granite Project have generally been above the 68 degree threshold since mid-July or early August 2019, depending upon the gage location. These monitoring points are the Salmon River at Whitebird (USGS 13317000), Snake River at Anatone (USGS 13334300) and the Clearwater River at Orofino (USGS 13340000).

This current water temperature information is readily available online. Data was once available for the Snake River at Weiser (USGS 13269000) location as well, but unfortunately, data collection was terminated due to “loss of funding” after the 2015 Water Year even though the year 2015 witnessed some water temperature issues further downstream.

Hopefully, the Lower Snake River’s extended picture will be addressed, both temporal and spatial aspects, as part of the decision making process. Declining fish numbers were noted long before the construction of the Lower Snake River projects, and water temperatures exceeding 68 degrees are currently noted many miles upstream from these dams and far removed from their direct influence.

 Gene Spangrude

     Walla Walla