New Dams Could Threaten West Coast Salmon Fisheries

Alexandria, VA – The health and sustainability of Pacific salmon are essential to both the West Coast recreational and commercial fishing industries, as well as the local communities and jobs that depend on them.

On November 30, the House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee convened to discuss a new bill, H.R. 4419, that would authorize construction of new dams and expand existing dams on rivers such as California’s Sacramento River. Such actions would have a significant impact on already tenuous salmon populations.  

The American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA) Government Affairs Vice President Scott Gudes testified during the hearing on behalf of salmon fisheries conservation and habitat. 

During his testimony, Gudes emphasized the negative impacts on Pacific salmon that already had occurred due to existing dams, which have contributed to the destruction of 90 percent of spawning habitat.

He emphasized the economic importance of healthy sustainable Chinook salmon runs which had generated $1.5 billion in activity and 23,000 jobs in California alone before the two-year fishery shut down in 2008 and 2009.

He noted the additional economic hardship on recreational and commercial fishing businesses and communities that had occurred during the recent drought. Gudes discussed the plight of wild Atlantic Salmon in the Northeast U.S. and how the fish has vanished from the southern part of its range.

He noted the causes were similar, such as dam construction, habitat degradation and water quality. He also noted that California represents the southern limit of the Chinook salmon’s range on the West Coast. 

Gudes told the Committee, “the nation ought to ensure that wild California salmon runs stay viable and not go the way of wild Atlantic salmon.”

During a point in the hearing when Republican and Democratic Members disagreed over policy inconsistencies regarding restoration projects in different regions of the U.S., such as California and Louisiana, Gudes interjected saying, “Congressmen, we [ASA] are consistent. We are for the fish.”