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 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, populations have declined since NOAA’s protection, conservation, and recovery efforts on their behalf began. All snake river wild salmon and steelhead runs were listed under the endangered species act by the late 90’s. Southern Resident Orcas officially became endangered in 2005. No population has meet survival, let alone recovery standards set by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. Governor Inslee started the Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery and Task Force in 2018 to evaluate options to save the Southern Resident Orca. They ignored breaching as commentators urged them to act on the breach alternative developed in the original Environmental Impact Statement. Later, a 750,000 dollar Stakeholder Report to further breach discussion was undertaken, resulting in no consensus or breach recommendation. Creation of the four governors process in 2020 (governors of Idaho, Washington, Montana and Oregon) was a promise to develop a regional initiative to recover salmon. The Columbia River Systems Operations Process (CRSO) did not recommend breaching through a new Environmental Impact Statement, published August 2020. In early 2021 the biological opinion based on the report was challenged in court. This is the sixth time environmental groups have sued over failed recovery efforts. Timelines for effective action from these efforts 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 site- specific guidance in the 2002 Feasibility Study/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to breach the dams. In this 7 year, 33 million dollar report, dam breaching was identified as the alternative that would provide the highest probability of meeting salmon survival and recovery criteria (see page 25). The Corps’ own conclusion: dam breaching is the best way to recover Snake River salmon, a conclusion that remains valid today. To save ratepayer and taxpayer money, save salmon, and save orcas, breaching must start this year.
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. 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.
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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.