Big Oil’s Threat to Northwest Salmon

For thousands of years, the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia and Snake rivers supported the most diverse and abundant salmon and steelhead populations on Earth. But in recent decades, these iconic fish have faced increasing challenges to their populations and habitat — from warmer waters due to global warming, to dams and development – leading to their sharp decline.

Now, endangered salmon are facing yet another challenge – one which most people don’t know about.

Tar Sands Mega-Loads Threaten Pacific NorthwestStarting this year, Exxon Mobil is planning to barge over 200 loads of Korean-made massive mining equipment (two-thirds the length of a football field, three stories high, 24 feet wide, and weighing up to 650,000 pounds!) up the Columbia and Snake rivers, and then transport it on super-sized trucks through Idaho and Montana to the tar sands oil operations in the boreal forest of Alberta, Canada.

And somehow, these plans have quietly moved forward with little environmental review or public input so far.

The proposed route includes the Lewis & Clark Trail, a National Scenic By-way, a Wild & Scenic River corridor, and the famed Blackfoot River of “A River Runs Through It.” If you’ve ever travelled the narrow mountain and valley roads in Idaho and Montana, you might be as baffled me as to how they are going to transport such massive loads. It’s apparent that these shipments will block traffic and access to emergency services, and disrupt local businesses. Construction and potential accidents will inevitably impact these special places and the fish and wildlife that depend on them.

Besides the impacts to the states along this route, these shipments will speed up Canadian dirty tar sands oil production — one of the most destructive and polluting industrial projects on earth. Oil companies are digging up pristine boreal forest and leaving behind huge toxic wastelands, posing a deadly threat to migrating waterfowl and other wildlife. Woodland caribou populations have already plummeted 70%, moose populations have dropped 60%, and scientists estimate bird mortality from the toxic tar sands lakes could be 8,000 to 100,000 birds a year.

The Canadian tar sands project is also one of the largest contributors on earth to climate disruption, creating global warming pollution three times that of conventional oil projects and devastating one of the best carbon storage sites on the planet: Canada’s Boreal Forest.  The enormous amounts of carbon that tar sands mining adds to our atmosphere is further heating up the waters that salmon rely on.

According to recently released documents, if this project is approved, other companies are planning to immediately use this route to transport their tar sands machinery to Canada. If it’s not stopped, Big Oil will have a permanent industrial shipping route through the Pacific Northwest to the environmental disaster that is the Alberta tar sands.

Lots of questions must be answered before permission should be granted. How will endangered salmon be affected? What are the risks and potential impacts to local businesses, communities and our natural resources?  We cannot stand quietly by while Big Oil turns our rivers and roads into a conveyer belt for one of the world’s largest environmental disasters.

TAKE ACTION: Insist upon a full federal environmental review and analysis of this project, including impacts to endangered wild salmon.