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Jim McCarthy's blog

One of the most significant measures undertaken to protect California’s iconic Sacramento River salmon runs and improve fish passage will enter its final stage this summer.

This week, workers began tearing down two massive dams on Washington’s Elwha River. Together, the 108-foot high Elwha Dam and the nearby 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam have stood for nearly a century -- as barriers between seven distinct native salmon runs and their natal streams in the Olympic National Park.

The removal and restoration, hailed as the largest in American history, represents the culmination of more than 20 years of effort by local tribal members, dedicated activists and a few good attorneys, including an Earthjustice lawyer named Ron Wilson.

On Tuesday, a Fresno judge issued a mixed ruling on a federal salmon rebuilding plan critical to the survival of struggling Central Valley salmon runs as well as to the livelihoods of fishing families and communities throughout California and coastal Oregon.

President Barack Obama came to California on Wednesday on a fundraising blitz, and California's salmon-dependent communities tried a blitz of their own to turn his attention towards protecting the Sacramento River king salmon run. San Francisco Bay Area commercial and sportfishing groups, restaurants and seafood distributors published a half page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle on page A9.

The excitement for the return of wild king salmon to restaurants and stores this spring and summer is nearly matched by anxiety.

People fear that this now-rebounding seafood mainstay and regional jobs powerhouse will be decimated by politically driven efforts in Congress to gut science-based protections for fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Basin.

Oregon's second largest run of salmon outside the Columbia Basin is returning home to a remodeled Rogue River this fall, and it looks as if they like the updated digs.

The storied Rogue has been the setting for the most significant series of dam removals yet seen in the western United States, with four dams down in the last three years, opening up 157 continuous miles of free-flowing mainstem river for the first time in more than a century. Tributaries included, the removals have provided salmon and steelhead better access to 333 miles of habitat upstream of the former dams.

September is Salmon Month at San Francisco's Aquarium of the Bay. Sponsored by the SalmonAID coalition - of which Earthjustice is a member - Salmon Month brings together more than two dozen conservation, commercial and sportfishing organizations, as well as the West Coast's best restaurants in order to educate the public about wild salmon and the perils they face across our coast. This wide-ranging coalition motivates citizens to take actions that protect our amazing wild salmon and the rivers they call home.

Northern California's Shasta River was once the most productive salmon stream for its size in the Golden State. But just nine Shasta coho salmon made it home last year to spawn. Even worse, all of the returning fish were male. Talk about a tough dating pool.

There wasn't much water in the river to greet the few fish that showed up. Local ranchers had withdrawn so much water that stretches of the river went completely dry.

A National Academy of Sciences review panel today announced findings that federal protections for salmon and other fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are scientifically justified. The determination by the panel comes after months of controversy sparked by the plan’s modest restrictions on massive pumps in the Delta. These huge pumps export water to farms and cities south of the Delta, but also cause Delta rivers to run backwards, pulling large numbers of baby salmon and other fish to their deaths.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.