FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — May 26, 2023
Marc Sullivan, Save Our wild Salmon, firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-504-3949
Diverse voices call on Biden Administration to act quickly to replace Snake River dams’ services and restore the river to recover endangered fish, uphold promises to Native American Tribes, and invest in communities and critical infrastructure
On May 25, business owners, Tribal members, fishermen, orca and salmon scientists, urban and rural residents, and youth from across the Pacific Northwest called on the federal government to urgently develop a plan to remove the four lower Snake River dams and replace their services before wild salmon – and the Southern Resident orcas that rely upon them - go extinct.
Hosted by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, yesterday’s three-hour listening session aimed to gather public input on litigation about the lower Snake River dams, which is currently paused to allow for mediation and settlement discussions to develop a durable, long-term plan to protect and restore endangered anadromous fish populations in the Columbia-Snake River Basin.
Last September, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report confirmed that removing the dams is essential to stop the decline in Snake River salmon populations, echoing decades of prior research that have said the same. The NOAA report includes restoring a freely-flowing lower Snake River as one of three “centerpiece recovery actions” needed to sustain and recover abundant populations of wild salmon and steelhead. Replacing the services provided by the dams is a necessary step in ensuring the region continues to have affordable renewable energy and reliable agricultural transportation and irrigation systems.
Many participants thanked Senator Patty Murray, Washington state legislators and Governor Jay Inslee for their leadership and support for planning how to replace the services currently provided by the dams as they urged the Biden Administration to honor its commitment to develop "a durable long-term strategy to restore salmon and other native fish populations to healthy and abundant levels," by taking concrete steps in this direction this summer.
Overall, 56 people provided testimony. 39 spoke in favor of restoring a free-flowing lower Snake River as part of a larger comprehensive regional solution for wild fish and communities. People also expressed support for passage and reintroduction of salmon above Grand Coulee Dam. Many speakers expressed grave concerns about current salmon and steelhead population levels and scientists’ predictions this year about continued declines and record low returns for at least some Snake River stocks. 17 attendees spoke out against dam removal. Overall, in the three Listening Sessions hosted by the Biden Administration this spring, 124 speakers expressed support for river restoration while 35 have opposed.
Select quotations from speakers are included below.
"Time and time again, BPA has prioritized power generation over salmon recovery. BPA has now been in charge of 40 years of failed salmon recovery plans costing over $25 billion. The result—we are now further away from salmon recovery and much closer to salmon extinction. It is clear that the status quo is not working." – Margie Van Cleve, Selah, WA
“I fish for Salmon to feed my family and community. Fishing is not just a sport to me; it is an integral part of who I am; it is in my Native Hawaiian and Native American culture, it is in my DNA, my blood. Fishing is part of my greater spiritual connection, and the Columbia Basin is my church (perhaps different from your church, but every bit as sacred to me as yours is to you).
We all know what we have to do; we’ve known it for a long, long time. We need to breach the four dams as soon as possible. We know we can replace the energy, transportation, irrigation and other benefits of the river; we do not need to make choices between power, medicine or food. The Biden Administration says they want abundant salmon, justice for tribes and a strong economy. Prove it to us; remove the lower Snake River dams before it is too late.” – Stevie Kapanui Parsons, Aloha, OR
"If this administration is to be remembered for its ‘America the Beautiful’ values, it cannot be complicit in the demise of salmon and of killer whales—not under the watchful eye of the right side of history. As an Indigenous historian, a treaty salmon sport fisher, and with all the power of my ancestors - honor the treaties and breach the Lower Snake River dams.” – Ashley Nichole Lewis, Quinault Indian Nation member, fishing guide, doctoral candidate
"I am a fourth generation wheat farmer. I live 19 miles from the nearest barging terminal. Recently a new operation opened and I can now ship my wheat less than a mile, and then have it moved to a rail line. My wheat farming neighbors and I do not care how our wheat gets to market. We need affordable, reliable means to ship our grain. Today fellow farmers must begin talks of possible solutions before the dams are removed. We need to listen to science - not the politicians.” – Bryan Jones, wheat farmer, Dusty, WA
“With each promised remedy came renewed hope that this would be the game changer. In reality, all these fixes were able to do was to postpone extinction of salmon in Idaho. And at a great expense to taxpayers, but more even more costly to tribes, small communities and their businesses that lost a vital part of their livelihood, their culture, their spiritual connection to things greater than themselves, their future existence.
I don’t want to lose hope. But these past 5 decades have been hard not only on my community, but on my optimism. This year’s runs may be some of the lowest in recorded history. Especially for steelhead. But I remain hopeful that we can recover salmon, protect the farmers that need affordable and dependable transportation and embrace new energy technologies that are quickly making these dams obsolete. And I am hopeful because politicians like our Rep. Simpson and Washington Gov. Inslee have shown political courage and leadership. Please support this process.” – Jerry Myer, fishing guide (ret.) and ranch manager, speaking for his family; Salmon, ID
"Power interests are nickel and diming our salmon runs to extinction. It has been done slowly, so few people notice the cause and effect. Well, it can’t be hidden any more. These dams in the lower Snake we are speaking of, they are more or less a blank checkbook selling our Salmon into extinction." – Stephen Gettel, Milwaukie, OR
"I am here today stepping out from class to give my comment because I believe that in order to return salmon in the Snake River to healthy and harvestable levels and invest in a future of clean energy, we need to take out the four lower Snake River dams. We can replace the energy provided by these dams with fully renewable energy and I urge you to take action on this for me, my siblings, my friends, and generations to come." – Tessa Alford, high school student, Lewiston, ID.
"I spent the spring of 1982 as a barge rider on the Columbia and Snake rivers working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, collecting juvenile salmon and steelhead from facilities at the 4 LSRD and McNary Dam on the Columbia and transporting them to below Bonneville Dam to release smolts. Like many other techno-fixes that have been tried, these efforts failed to restore a single ESA-listed wild salmon or steelhead stock from rivers in N.E. Oregon, S.E. Washington or Idaho." – Amy Grant, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist (ret.)
"We ask that our government correct the mistakes of the past by moving forward to replace the dams’ services while preparing to breach the four lower Snake River Dams. And please do so quickly. Our salmon and steelhead are running out of time." – Norm Ritchie, fisherman and boardmember, Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Gresham, OR
"I made a choice to stop guiding steelhead fishing due to decreased run size of steelhead populations. Seasons closed, businesses slowed, and my livelihood suffered. But more than anything, I felt guilty harassing a population that was already so depressed. The main issue, however, is not my guiding or fishing. The main issue is that Salmon and steelhead need rivers. The dams have reduced the Snake to a series of lakes." – Ian Faurot, McCall, ID
"And even during my relatively short time guiding, I have seen a steep decline in yearly averages to the point of full river closures up and down the Columbia corridor. So much so that I have lost full seasons and opportunities due to low steelhead returns and morally feeling unethical to target such a struggling fish." – KynsLee Scott, fly-fishing guide, Missoula, MT