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?
The Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery and Task Force and the Columbia River Systems Operations Process (CRSO) have been evaluating options to save endangered salmon and Southern Resident Orcas in the Pacific Northwest since 2018. Although allocating over a billion dollars in the state budget for recovery efforts, they did not recommend breaching. They recommended another Stakeholder Report, costing 750,000, to study breaching. This report will be final in March 2020. It does not guarantee breaching. CRSO’s recommendations through a new Environmental Impact Statement on the dams will be published even later; March 2021. When it comes to protecting salmon in the Snake River, the federal government repeatedly and consistently fails. It has violated the Endangered Species Act for more than 20 years by ignoring the best alternative for recovery. Timelines for effective action from these two groups are years away.All four Snake River salmon and steelhead runs were listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA by 1997. Southern Resident Orcas officially became endangered in 2005. They are in trouble NOW. Their survival is at risk. In fact, both species have declined since NOAA’s protection, conservation, and recovery efforts on their behalf began.
Why not just let these two existing projects evaluate options 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 and a new Environmental Impact Statement will solve the problem when in fact all it does is kick the can down the road for at least another 10 years. 25 years have been wasted on studies and failed attempts to mitigate for the damage inflicted by these four dams. Instead, strong pressure on the Corps, Bonneville Power Authority, and the Northwest delegation, 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.