Despite decades of restoration efforts in the Columbia River Basin in the United States, recovery of anadromous fish remains elusive. Regional stakeholder conflicts about objectives for fish restoration complicate efforts to collaboratively develop successful governance systems. While ecological research and solutions have been primary considerations for restoration initiatives, much of the literature recognizes social complexities as the root of the problem. This research employs qualitative methods that use narratives about anadromous fish restoration to lead to more comprehensive understandings the factors that drive decision-making in the process of developing collaborative governance. I show that the depth of divergence between stakeholder objectives has not yet been sufficiently addressed. I then explain which discourses are privileged over others by decisions, or indecision, throughout the governance process. Lastly, I highlight that current governance model lacks any pathway for making difficult decisions when stakeholders cannot reach consensus.