Buoy 10

A fisherman wades out into the Columbia River.

World-class salmon fisheries like Buoy 10 at the mouth of the Columbia River, nearby ocean fishing and inland river trips all draw tens of thousands of salmon and steelhead fishermen and women to our area year after year.

It would be a challenge to find any one of Astoria’s and Warrenton’s businesses that is not, in some way, impacted by salmon fishing. Famed fisheries such as ours are among the crown jewels in what has become a $5 billion industry spanning the vast Columbia River basin across parts of Oregon, Washington state and Idaho.

So, it’s impossible to imagine that fisheries at the heart of what was historically the most prolific salmon and steelhead producer the world has ever seen could come under threat. But we’d be fools to assume they couldn’t, and even worse if we shirked our responsibilities to protect these mighty fisheries.

The salmon returns we’re fortunate to have today are small fractions of those from decades ago. And impacts from dams, development and climate change all are realities that will continue to increase the urgency of our responsibilities as stewards. It is in all of our best interests to meet those challenges head-on, informed by the best science and guided by strong leadership.

Oregon has a long-standing tradition of standing up for Columbia basin salmon and steelhead, and we’re thankful that tradition continues, from Salem to Washington, D.C. Oregon has consistently, over 30 years, held federal agencies to account to produce a legal plan that doesn’t run the Columbia and Snake river main stem dams at the expense of our fish, even when Oregon stood alone.

We applaud Gov. Kate Brown for continuing that tradition of leadership, and for showing the political courage and vision to support a comprehensive, basinwide plan that includes removing the four federal dams on the lower Snake River. Science tells us these dams must go to recover Snake River salmon and steelhead.

As businessmen, we recognize that any recovery plan must include the actions and investments necessary to replace the energy and agriculture capacity those dams provide. U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican, and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, have spoken up together about the need for such a plan. We urge U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley — both Oregon Democrats — and others in the Northwest delegation to seize this historic opportunity and secure funding and put such a plan into motion now, during this Congress.

Lower Snake dam removal is not a cure-all. But the science could not be any clearer on the lower Snake dams: salmon and steelhead cannot recover with those four dams in place. If trends continue and the dams remain, salmon and steelhead populations will continue their slide to extinction. Many critical populations already teeter on the brink. Lower Snake dam removal gives these fish their last best chance at a comeback, period.

Dam removal will more than double the spring Chinook swimming upriver and will create a whole new Hanford reach for fall Chinook, like those that sustain our fall fisheries here in town.

And we know that the thousands of people on our river, and the hundreds of guides landing salmon at Buoy 10, want to preserve these fisheries to keep us all fishing for generations to come. From Astoria to Riggins, Idaho, salmon mean business. We cannot afford the cost of inaction — not in Astoria, not in the Pacific Northwest, nor in this country.

Do you want to be the generation that allowed salmon, our “king of fish,” our red gold, our icon, to go extinct? We sure don’t.

While we tend to think of ourselves as their caretakers here where the river meets the ocean, the salmon and steelhead traveling by belong to all of us. With enough of us sharing the responsibility across this vast landscape, we can ensure a strong salmon and steelhead legacy that continues for generations to come — for Astoria, the North Coast and the entire Columbia basin.

Senators Wyden and Merkley, will you join us? Will you act?

Bob Rees is the executive director of the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association. Jason Erickson is the owner of Astoria Bait and Tackle.