Dam Breaching Talking Points


Both President Obama and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy can order the Snake River dams to be breached. The Army Corps of Engineers must begin dam breaching in December 2016 to save wild salmon and endangered orcas of the Pacific Northwest.

Please call the White House Hotline—202-456-1111— and urge the President to use the breach plan in the current lower Snake River EIS to order the Army Corps of Engineers to breach the four lower Snake River dams, starting in December 2016, to save salmon and endangered orcas.

Then call Secretary Darcy— 202-761-0001—and urge her to order the Corps to breach the four lower Snake River dams, using the breach plan in the 2002 lower Snake River EIS, to save wild salmon and orcas.


• Breaching the dams offers the best opportunity to recover Snake River wild salmon. (Authority, if asked: The 2002 EIS under which the four Snake River dams currently are operated, Executive Summary, p. 25, http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/portals/28/docs/environmental/lsrstudy/Summary.pdf.)
• If the Army Corps of Engineers does not begin dam breaching in December 2016, the opportunity will not come around for at least another decade. By then wild Snake River salmon and endangered orcas will be gone. A remnant population of orcas will remain that will die out over the next several decades.
• There is neither enough time nor a no need for more studies of orcas or salmon before breaching begins. We know salmon need a free flowing Snake River and orcas need food.
• This is the last and best opportunity to:
 Stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars each year in futile fish recovery efforts in the Snake River Basin.
 Cool the lower Snake River to its natural free-flowing regime.
 Save keystone salmon species.
 Recover the largest historical source of prey for the Pacific Northwest’s endangered orca whales, listed by NOAA in 2015 as one of the eight species most in danger of going extinct in the near future if action is not taken immediately.
 Create the largest watershed restoration in North America, an incredible environmental legacy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why were these dams built?
They were built to create an inland port for shipping grain by barge. Most farmers now ship by more flexible rail, at a lower rate.
Won’t irrigation go away?
Only one dam, Ice Harbor, is used for irrigation. Irrigation pipes can be extended to the river to continue irrigation, if needed.
Don’t we need the power they generate?
No, the extra power is not needed because the regional power grid currently produces a 16% annual surplus. If more power is needed, it can be replaced by wind power, a greener option.
Do we need the dams for flood control?
No, Congress did not authorize flood control as a purpose and the dams were not designed for it. Lower Granite dam actually creates a flood risk to Lewiston due to sediment build up.
What is the impact when the reservoirs are gone?
Before the dams were constructed, people gathered on the river’s banks to fish, camp, hunt and raft on rapids through picturesque canyons. Breaching would create 140 miles of fall Chinook salmon spawning habitat, and expose 20,000 acres of fertile land for agriculture. This land could be returned to the state of Washington to help fund school budgets.
What will it cost to breach the dams?
The cost is about $340 million, which would be paid by the BPA and/or the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers – not Washington State taxpayers.
What does it mean to “breach the dams”?
Breaching means to take earth-moving equipment – bulldozers – and remove part of the earthen berm adjacent to the concrete structures. This will allow the river to begin flowing freely again. Breaching is not complicated! The concrete structures can remain in place.
Who would do this work?
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has had a breaching plan in place for 15 years. It can be activated immediately and breaching can begin. Work must begin on the first dam in December to save the endangered wild salmon runs and help the orcas of the Pacific Northwest survive.