We are the presidents of the Clearwater and Riggins chapters of the Idaho River Community Alliance. Our organization does not have paid staff. We don’t represent a special interest or a specific industry — just communities in your districts. We formed only a year ago out of necessity.
That necessity has grown to desperation as our — your — communities on the Salmon River downstream from Stanley, and on the Clearwater River downstream from Stites suffer as our salmon and steelhead disappear.
For the first time ever Dworshak fish hatchery will not see enough steelhead return to meet its broodstock minimum. The steelhead fishing season on the entire Clearwater and part of the Snake is closed. Many families are scared. For the next six months they’re out of work. Beyond that, the uncertainty weighs heavier.
Our communities rely on those fish. It’s not just our guides, outfitters, or tackle shops — our hotels, our restaurants and bars, gas stations, coffee shops, and grocery stores all hurt. Anglers come for fish and bring money here. A decent salmon fishing season brought $40 million in revenue to Riggins in one summer. Without fish our communities will diminish. Folks will move elsewhere. That is a reality.
On the same day our communities got the news of the season closure, the Governor’s Salmon Workgroup met for the third time in Lewiston. While we listened to presentations, at home our friends were scrambling to figure out how they’ll pay the mortgage. Dread is on the doorstep of our river communities.
That dread has made us willing to discuss any and every remedy to bring health back to our communities. Other interests on the workgroup, and who organized speakers to make public comments at the Lewiston meeting, paint a picture that certain remedies to bring our fish back, like dam breaching, would cause catastrophe for their industry.
Well, our river communities are actively living such a nightmare scenario. We fail to see how a discussion about what could be done to support alternative transportation to get their product to market is the equivalent to our situation. Their grandstanding in the face of our communities’ pain is detestable, if not just dishonest.
We would never dream of shutting down an entire industry and put others through what we are going through now. But we are willing to talk about which solutions would hurt others and why, and how such solutions can be modified so no one is left behind.
We write this as a plea for you to understand the value — the reliance — our communities have for anadromous fish. We are hurting. Something must be done. We need your support and acknowledgement that all discussion and solutions are valuable, that each potential solution must be vetted thoroughly. We need our fish back.
We support Congressman Mike Simpson’s efforts to look at holistic solutions. Governor, Senators, and Representative Fulcher: we desperately need you too. Come talk to us in Riggins or Orofino. Or we can come to you. Your river communities are in trouble.
President of Idaho River Community Alliance - Clearwater Chapter,
President of Idaho River Community Alliance – Riggins Chapter,