NOAA Seeks Input on Snake River Salmon/Steelhead Plan

NOAA Fisheries is inviting public feedback on a new proposed recovery plan for Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon and steelhead, two threatened species that once represented close to half of all salmon and steelhead returning to the Columbia River system.

The proposed recovery plan provides a blueprint for rebuilding the Snake River species through improvements ranging from safer passage at hydroelectric dams to restored spawning habitat in rivers and streams. The recovery plan is not regulatory, depending instead on voluntary actions by states, tribes, federal agencies and local citizens.

“The recovery plan is a roadmap that draws on the latest information and science to chart a course for recovery of the species,” said Rosemary Furfey, recovery coordinator for the two species. “It’s designed to coordinate and continue those actions that together will make the biggest difference for the fish over the long term.”

NOAA Fisheries developed the recovery plan in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of scientists from states, tribes and academic institutions as well as state and local recovery experts. NOAA Fisheries divided the Snake River Basin into three parts based on state boundaries, developing individual recovery strategies and actions for each of three “management units” – one covering Idaho, and the others covering Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon.

Local partners such as tribes, state fish and wildlife agencies, federal land managers, and the Snake River Recovery Board in Southeast Washington helped develop the plans for each management unit.

Snake River Chinook salmon and steelhead are long-distance travelers, migrating up to 900 miles fromthe rivers and streams of Idaho, Washington and Oregon to the ocean and back again to spawn years later. Historically the Snake River supported more than 40 percent of all Columbia River spring and summer Chinook and 55 percent of summer steelhead.

Snake River spring and summer Chinook were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1992 and Snake River steelhead were listed as threatened in 1997. Today both species are considered at risk of becoming endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of their range.

The recovery plan identifies the factors limiting salmon and steelhead recovery in the Snake River Basin and throughout their life cycle, including impaired passage, low stream flows and high water temperatures. The limiting factors also include degraded habitat and impaired floodplain functions, predation, impaired water quality, the effects of hatchery production and a changing climate.

The plan also outlines recovery strategies and actions for each population of the threatened fish, tailoring recovery actions to local conditions. Strategies and actions include managing Columbia and Snake River flows to promote fish migration and managing fish hatcheries to reduce impacts on naturally spawned fish while also rebuilding depressed natural populations.

Adaptive management provisions in the recovery plan call for monitoring results and updating actions and strategies as biologists learn more about what works.

NOAA Fisheries estimates it will take 50 to 100 years to recover Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon and steelhead to the self-sustaining levels necessary to remove their federal protections under the Endangered Species Act.

For the full recovery plan and information on how to comment, visit