On today’s date in 2004, the power company PacifiCorp promised tribal nations, the state of Washington, and the people of the Pacific Northwest that PacifiCorp would let salmon return to their spawning grounds in the Lewis River.
However, 18 years after promising to construct fish passage at each dam, PacifiCorp is still blocking salmon from 57 miles of spawning, rearing, and migration habitat in the watershed.
Instead of designing and building fish passage at all three dams, Pacifi-Corp spent much of the last decade trying to avoid its commitments. PacifiCorp nearly shed its legal obligation during the Trump administration.
Since 2022, PacifiCorp has publicly recommitted to building effective fish passage at all three dams. It’s a step in the right direction, but given PacifiCorp’s history, it’s hard to take PacifiCorp’s newfound enthusiasm seriously. And in any case, PacifiCorp can’t give the fish, or the people who rely on them, back the years that PacifiCorp squandered.
One thing is clear: The science shows that reconnecting fish with existing, high-quality spawning habitat is the best way to recover the Lewis River’s struggling populations of spring chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead and bull trout.
On this anniversary of a broken agreement, we remember and say: It’s past time for PacifiCorp to keep its promises.