Protect Wild Salmon From Rising Water Temperatures

Target: Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Goal: Take necessary action to curtail the damage done by dams which kill salmon by the thousands due to dangerously high water temperatures.

Dams in Oregon and Washington state create shallow reservoirs which heat up during the summer to unnaturally high temperatures, endangering a number of species of salmon and steelhead for years. The fish travel major waterways affected by the dams, such as the Columbia and Snake Rivers, as part of their annual runs. Salmon rely upon cool, oxygen-rich waters in order to survive and spawn, yet in recent decades, these runs have been marked by the mass deaths of thousands of fish as water temperatures rose and oxygen was depleted.

In 2003, the EPA concluded that the dams were the main cause behind the string of salmon deaths, which is also worsened due to the phenomenon of global warming. In response, it had been suggested that temperature must be regulated similar to other forms of pollution, yet the agency did nothing further to address the problem. Now, conservation groups such as Columbia Riverkeeper are joining together to file a lawsuit against the EPA and its current administrator, Scott Pruitt, for failing to adhere to the Clean Water Act in not acknowledging the fact that temperature should be considered a form of pollution.

In the years following the original EPA report, the situation has become increasingly dire for the fish. In 2015 alone, more than 250,000 sockeye salmon perished as summertime temperatures in the reservoirs reached lethal levels. It is likely that more fish will continue to die as long as the dams keep the water levels artificially low and slow-moving. Salmon are a crucial part of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem, with a number of species relying on them for food, ranging from orcas to grizzly bears. Without salmon, the entire ecologic balance of the region would be imperiled.

We must treat temperature pollution seriously and acknowledge its harmful effects on wildlife such as salmon. As global temperatures continue to rise, it is certain that the high water temperatures will only worsen for these fish. Sign the petition below to demand that the dams do not continue to subject salmon to unlivable conditions and that the EPA do more to ensure their protection.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Pruitt,

Salmon and steelhead are seriously threatened by rising temperatures in the Columbia and Snake River watersheds. Dams along these rivers create slow, shallow pools of water that heat up to unnatural levels during the summer, resulting in the deaths of thousands of fish. These fish are critical for the entire Pacific Northwest ecosystem and must be protected.

The EPA has known about this issue since 2003, and just last year a federal judge ruled that the U.S. government has not done enough to improve salmon runs, and must take further action. You have been critical of the EPA in the past, but now that you head this agency, it is your responsibility to follow through with the duties now entrusted in you. You must develop a plan that will address this issue and hold the dam operators accountable for ensuring that water temperatures do not exceed levels that the fish can reasonably tolerate. I hope you will do so promptly, and ensure that these waterways can continue to support salmon that both wildlife and people rely on.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management, Oregon and Washington

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2 Comments

  1. The EPA’s inaction on this is inexcusable. They need to immediately take measures to save the salmon.

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