The four Lower Snake River Dams are man-made structures with a finite lifetime. They are part of the problematic aging U.S. infrastructure that requires more money for maintenance every year. These dams will be breached in the future due to the economics. They are economically unsustainable now. It’s simply a matter of time before the federal agencies admit it. So, the question is will salmon and Southern Resident Orcas still be around when the dams come down, or will it be too late? Extinction is forever. The dams are not.
Aren’t Governor Inslee’s Washington State Task Force & the federal CRSO process already on top of the salmon and orca issues?
It would please us to think so, however both species have declined since NOAA’s protection, conservation, and recovery efforts on their behalf began. All four runs were listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA by 1997. Southern Resident Orcas officially became endangered in 2005. Most recently, beginning in 2018, the Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery and Task Force evaluated options to save endangered salmon and Southern Resident Orcas in the Pacific Northwest. They recommended a Stakeholder Report, costing 750,000, to study breaching. This report was final in March 2020 and did not recommend breaching. The Columbia River Systems Operations Process (CRSO) recommendations through a new Environmental Impact Statement on the dams was published August 2020 and did not recommend breaching. Timelines for effective action from these two groups are years away.
Why not just let these existing projects carry out other methods to save these species?
Endangered Snake River salmon and Southern Resident Orcas can’t wait for long-drawn out efforts. And they don’t have to because the US Army Corps of Engineers is committed to following the guidance in the current Summary, 2002 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as a framework for its actions. The EIS includes a comprehensive analysis of alternatives for improving salmon passage. Dam breaching was identified as the alternative that would provide the highest probability of meeting salmon survival and recovery criteria (see page 25). The US Army Corps took 7 years to complete this report at a cost of $33 million. The Corps’ own conclusion: dam breaching is the best way to recover Snake River salmon, a conclusion that remains valid today. The evidence is clear, to save money, save salmon and save orcas, breaching must start this year. This will also save tax money and ratepayer money.
Why hasn’t the Corps of Engineers acted to breach the dams?
Lack of regional political leadership to even ask the Corps to breach. And, a misguided belief by the public and agencies that further studies, legislation, and a new Environmental Impact Statement will solve the problem when in fact all it does is prolong effective action to save salmon and orca. 25 years has been spent trying every other method to recover salmon. Strong pressure on the Corps, Bonneville Power Authority, and the Northwest delegation to breach the dams is urgently needed now before it is too late.
Discussions about the dams can take many perspectives. As you learn more about what the dams mean for different people, you might be surprised how technically feasible and economically beneficial breaching can be to achieve our common goal of saving salmon and orcas.
Explore these perspectives by clicking on the image below or in the Perspectives menu.
Dam Sense was established to tell the truth about these dams and to help us all imagine a brighter future filled with vibrant local economies, abundant fishable wild salmon and steelhead, recovering Southern Resident Orcas, a financially viable Bonneville Power Administration, less taxpayer waste and responsible government stewardship of our resources. We are a 501 (c)(3) non profit organization.