In May 2021, U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee (WA) issued a joint statement in which they acknowledged the extinction crisis facing Snake River salmon and steelhead and committed to develop, by 7/31/2022, a long-term plan to protect and restore these imperiled populations.
In October 2021, they issued another statement establishing a joint federal-state process on Snake River salmon recovery.
Then in February 2022, Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee announced a new website - Lower Snake River Dam Options. It shares information about their process, including key milestones and timelines:
- Draft Report identifying how to replace the dams' services – May 2022.
- Public comment period – mid-May to mid-June 2022.
- Final report and an action plan – by or before July 31, 2022.
As a key part of their initiative, they retained a consultant to produce a Report identifying our options for replacing the services currently provided by the four lower Snake River dams. Since May 2021 when they announced their initiative, the senator and governor, their staffs and consultant have held hundreds of meetings and worked closely with the region’s tribes, stakeholders and other experts to inform this report and understand their options for an action plan that will protect and restore healthy, fishable populations of Snake River salmon and steelhead.
II. DRAFT LOWER SNAKE RIVER DAMS' BENEFITS REPLACEMENT REPORT:
On June 9, 2022, Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee released their highly anticipated ‘Draft Lower Snake River Dams Benefits Replacement Report.’ This document makes clear that the dams’ services – energy, irrigation, and barge transportation - can be fully, feasibly, and affordably replaced with reliable, cost-effective alternatives.
The core findings from this report lay the foundation for developing a comprehensive solution to restore the lower Snake River and its salmon, help critically endangered Southern Resident orcas, uphold our nation’s promises to Northwest Tribes, and invest in our region's communities and infrastructure.
While Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee have not (yet!) committed to a plan that includes dam removal, they have put this option at the center of discussions today. The public comment period for the Draft Report runs from June 9 - July 11. We expect them to release a Final Report soon afterward in July, and to announce their action plan for moving forward to protect and restore endangered Snake River salmon and steelhead in late July / early August.
On a separate but parallel track, confidential settlement talks are also under way on a similar timeline. With the approval of the court in Fall 2021, the decades-long litigation was temporarily paused to allow the parties – Nez Perce Tribe, State of Oregon, SOS member groups led by Earthjustice and the Biden Administration to collaborate/negotiate to develop a long-term solution to resolve the lawsuit and protect endangered wild salmon and steelhead from the risk of extinction caused by the system of federal dams and reservoirs on the Snake and Columbia rivers.
Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee are accepting public comment on their Draft LSR Dams' Benefits Replacement Report from June 9 to July 11. SOS has set up an action alert to make it easy to submit public comment - and to share with others in your family and networks.
The public comment period provides a critical opportunity to communicate appreciation to Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee for their leadership on this critically important issue and demonstrate your strong support for Congress and the Biden Administration to move quickly to develop and begin to implement a comprehensive regional solution that includes lower Snake River dam removal, replacement of their services in a manner that moves everyone forward together.
IV. LINKS TO FURTHER INFORMATION AND WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING:
- Press Release: Yakama Nation Responds to Murray-Inslee Draft Salmon Report -- Tribe views newar-term dam removal as critical to salmon survival in the Columbia Basin (PDF, June 9)
- Press Release: The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation responds to draft Murray-Inslee Report on Lower Snake River Dams -- Honor the treaties. Protect our salmon. Breach the dams. (June 9)
- Press Release: Nez Perce Tribe Calls for National Leadership from the Administration and Congress -- Murray-Inslee Report on Replacing the Service of the Lower Snake River Dams. (June 9)
- Press Release - Salmon, fishing and allied advocates: Scientists, energy experts and others applaud report by Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee (June 9, 2022)
- Seattle Times article: Removing Lower Snake River dams offers best chance for salmon recovery — at steep price, report says (June 9)
- Columbian Editorial - In Our View: Snake River dams report leaves many questions (June 13)
- Seattle Times Editorial - A herculean, worthwhile task before breaching Lower Snake River Dams (June 16)
Snake River salmon and steelhead populations face extinction today. Scientists have concluded that restoring a freely flowing lower Snake River is essential for their survival and recovery. Lower Snake River dam removal would achieve an unprecedented river restoration that reconnects salmon to 5,500 miles of pristine, protected habitat - the best remaining salmon incubator in the lower 48 states. The four Snake River dams and their reservoirs are the primary source of human-caused mortality for these fish. Now warming waters and reduced snowpack from climate change are accelerating existing salmon stressors. Scientists tell us that we only have a few more years left to act.
Salmon are a keystone species that define our region’s ecology, economy, and communities. Salmon are central to many Northwest tribes and critical to the survival of endangered Southern Resident orcas and more than 100 fish and wildlife species. The Tribes are leading the way - working across our region to protect and restore salmon and their habitats, including in the Snake River. In spring 2021, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) unanimously passed a resolution calling for the removal of the four lower Snake River dams and replacement of their services with alternatives. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) passed a similar resolution several weeks later.
The people of Pacific Northwest and the nation urgently need a comprehensive solution. After more than two decades, six illegal federal plans, and $19+ billion in spending, not a single salmon population has been recovered in the Snake/Columbia rivers. We desperately need a new approach or we will lose these fish and the many benefits they bring. The science is clear: restoring the lower Snake River by removing its four dams is essential for protecting salmon from extinction.
'Urgency and Opportunity - Highlights and milestones from 2021'
The section below contains background and links to press coverage, statements and other information reflecting key details and developments concerning the plight of endangered Snake River salmon and steelhead and the benefits they bring to our region.
In early 2021, Rep. Simpson (R-ID) kicked off a groundbreaking discussion in the Pacific Northwest when he proposed a comprehensive regional solution to restore endangered salmon and steelhead populations and invest in communities and critical infrastructure. His initiative combined lower Snake River dam removal with investments in clean energy, transportation infrastructure, waterfront, fishing and farming communities, and more.
Other regional leaders have stepped up as well. Oregon’s Gov. Kate Brown and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, for example, announced their readiness last spring to help develop a regional strategy that restores the lower Snake River and invests in communities.
Then in May, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee in Washington State issued a joint statement that recognized the crisis facing Snake River fish, committed to address it and – for the first time - placed dam removal squarely on the table for consideration.
Fast forward to October 2021: Gov. Inslee and Sen. Murray issued a new statement outlining next steps in the process they announced in May. They are working together now, with the assistance of a contractor, to understand options for replacing the services currently provided by the dams as a key step toward developing an action plan for Snake River salmon and Northwest communities by or before July 2022. A draft report from the contractor is expected this spring that will be followed by a regional public input process.
Of course, many others - including Northwest Native American Tribes and stakeholders including utilities, shippers, growers and others - are participating in this conversation around shared solutions.
Save Our wild Salmon has set up this 'Urgency and Opportunity' Resource Page to help people understand the latest developments in efforts to urgently develop a comprehensive regional solution that restores the lower Snake River and invests in communities and infrastructure.
We will update it regularly, so check back to learn about who's weighing in and how.
With these recent developments, our elected leaders need to hear from you and people, businesses and networks with whom you are connected! Go to our Take Action Page to find out how you can make your voice heard! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more our work and how you can get more involved!
I. 'Urgency and Opportunity': Select Media Coverage:
Washington governor, senator want answers on how to replace benefits of Lower Snake River dams (Seattle Times, October 16)
Upstream Battle (Time Magazine, October 2021)
Poll finds most Washington voters support plan to breach Snake River dams (Spokesman Review, October 7)
Lower Snake River irrigators propose two-dam drawdown, breaking with some farmers and bargers (Seattle Times, September 7)
Steelhead numbers bad, again (Lewiston Tribune, August 24)
Excessive heat makes it more difficult for sockeye salmon to return to Idaho (KIVI TV, August 15)
‘More and more dire’: Idaho salmon advocates rally for Snake River dam breaching (Idaho Statesman, August 7)
Pacific Northwest heatwave sets up ‘grim’ migration for salmon on Columbia, Snake rivers (Seattle Times, June 29)
Northwest tribes unite behind breaching concept (Lewiston Tribune, May 27)
Northwest tribes unite over GOP congressman’s pitch to breach down Lower Snake River dams (Seattle Times, May 27)
Tribe’s fish study is ‘a call to alarm’ (Lewiston Tribune, April 30)
Oregon Congressman joins Idaho’s Mike Simpson in promoting dam removal (Idaho Statesman, April 30)
Columbia Basin tribes back Simpson plan (Lewiston Morning Tribune, April 16)
Idaho Republican, Oregon Democrat could be the key figures in dam-breaching debate (Idaho Statesman, March 29)
Letter from tribal leaders: Breach the lower Snake River dams (Lewiston Tribune, March 26)
A Republican wants to breach dams. Where are Democrats? (E&E News, March 26)
Editorial - In Our View: Snake River dams plan warrants consideration (The Columbian, March 21)
Scientists say removing Snake River dams ‘is necessary’ to restore salmon population (Lewiston Morning Tribune, Feb 23)
Snake River dams proposal draws accolades, criticism (Peninsula Daily News, Feb 21)
‘Devastating impacts’: Idaho Gov. Little opposes Simpson’s plan to breach Snake River dams (Idaho Statesman, Feb 18)
Idaho Rep. Simpson Explains His $34B Plan To Restore The Salmon (Boise State Public Radio, 22 minutes, Feb. 18)
Congressman hopes politics align on divisive Northwest dams (Star Tribune, Feb 15)
Idaho U.S. rep calls for breaching Lower Snake River dams (La Grande Observer, Feb. 8)
Republican wants to breach dams, reshape Pacific Northwest (Energy & Environment News, Feb. 8)
Rep. Simpson proposal calls for breaching four lower Snake River dams (Lewiston Morning Tribune, Feb. 6)
This GOP congressman wants to remove 4 dams to save Idaho’s salmon. It’ll cost billions. (Tri-City Herald, Feb. 6)
II. 'Urgency and Opportunity': Select Editorials and Guest Opinions:
The Oregonian: Clean energy, wild salmon both critical for the future of the Columbia Basin
(Kate Brown, Samuel N. Penney, and Liz Hamilton, October 10)
Idaho Statesman: President Biden needs one voice to lead on Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson’s plan to save salmon (Tracy Andrus, September 15)
Register-Guard: We can have our salmon and eat it too (Walt Pollock, September 2)
Everett Herald: Murray, Inslee should back removal of Snake’s dams (Peter Hapke, August 23)
East Oregonian: Working together, bold action can secure a thriving future for the Columbia Basin (Gov. Kate Brown, August 14)
Spokesman-Review: Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee must keep their promise to save wild salmon (Collin O’Mara and Alyssa Macy, June 6)
Oregon Business: The Salmon and the Snake (Nick Cunningham, May 25)
The Hill: Rivers, hydropower and climate resilience (Tom Kiernan, May 25)
Act now to save salmon, regardless of dams’ fate (The Everett Herald, May 23)
Commentary: Simpson dam proposal smart, strategic (Capital Press, April 26)
Portland Business Journal: Viewpoint: A way to end litigation around salmon and dams (March 19)
Opinion: My Motivation by Mike Simpson (March 14)
Lewiston Tribune Guest Opinion: Troy and Schoesler rushed to judgment on Simpson’s fish plan (Don Chapman Feb. 27)
Magic Valley Op-ed: Hartgen wants to gamble for Idaho’s future – I want certainty (Rep. Mike Simpson, Feb. 26)
Spokesman Review Guest Opinion: The Last Salmon (W. Ron Allen and McCoy Oatman, Feb. 21)
Andy Kerr Blog: The Simpson Salmon Strategy (Feb. 19)
Statesman Journal Guest Opinion: A plan for salmon, jobs and a strong economy (Feb 19)
Union-Bulletin Guest Opinion: Rep. Simpson's bold vision to restore salmon runs (Nathaniel Mahlberg, Feb. 14)
Spokesman Review Guest Opinion: From an unforeseen corner comes a push to return dam-breaching to the discussion (Shawn Vestal, Feb. 14)
Lewiston Morning Tribune Opinion - Cheers and Jeers: ‘Daring greatly’ (Feb. 12)
Lewiston Morning Tribune Guest Opinion: Simpson’s run of the river (Marc C. Johnson, Feb. 12)
Oregonian Guest Opinion: Despite unknowns, dam-breaching proposal is opening honest conversations (Kurt Miller, Feb. 10)
Idaho Statesman Editorial: At long last, a workable plan to remove Lower Snake River dams and save Idaho’s salmon (Feb. 7)
III. 'Urgency and Opportunity': Select statements by sovereigns, elected officials, stakeholders, and others:
Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Resolution #2021 – 00 Calling on the President of the United States and the 177th Congress to seize the once-in-a-lifetime congressional opportunity to invest in salmon and river restoration in the Pacific Northwest, charting a stronger, better future for the Northwest, and bringing long-ignore tribal justice to our peoples and homelands (May 2021)
Letter to Northwest Congressional Delegation re: the critical importance and urgent need to pass comprehensive Congressional legislation similar to Congressman Simpson’s proposal. Signed by former Columbia Basin Partnership participants. (March 25, 2021)
Scientists’ letter on the need for lower Snake River dam removal to protect salmon and steelhead from extinction and restore abundant, fishable populations to Northwest Governors, member of Congress, and Policymakers (Feb 22)
Joint statement from U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (WA), and Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR). (Feb 8; see below)
IV. Notable Quotes:
“Working together as a delegation and with the governors, stakeholders and conservationists, we can create a Northwest solution that ends the salmon wars and puts the Northwest and our energy systems on a certain, secure and viable path for decades and restores Idaho’s salmon.” - U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho)
“I am certain if we do not take this course of action, we are condemning Idaho salmon to extinction.” - U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho)
“If we give the farmers, bargers, ports, the BPA and communities the necessary resources, each sector can develop a certainty and security putting the Northwest and Idaho salmon on a path to sustained viability,” - U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID)
“I have great respect for Representative Simpson, his staff and all those who helped him develop his proposal.” - U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID)
"The conceptual framework released by Rep. Simpson offers a lot of substance for our regional stakeholders to consider as the four governors process gets underway, and I hope this framework will help initiate a productive dialogue on how to achieve our shared goals. As these conversations continue, it is imperative that any future federal actions are based on both sound science and on consensus recommendations for impacted stakeholders." - U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA)
"The Columbia-Snake River Basin is home to an incredibly complex web of communities, cultures, ecosystems, and infrastructure – and increasingly, salmon and steelhead populations are in crisis. The status quo is not working; more progress is needed to recover these important species. I applaud Mr. Simpson for his efforts to craft a comprehensive solution that addresses multiple – often competing – needs, to bring communities together, and move us all forward. I'm intrigued by his proposal, which I think deserves thoughtful consideration from all sides. I look forward to working with communities across the region to help craft solutions that help recover these iconic fish on the brink of extinction." - U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
“All communities in the Columbia River Basin and beyond should be heard in efforts to recover the Northwest’s iconic salmon runs while ensuring economic vitality of the region. Any process needs to balance the needs of communities in the Columbia River Basin, be transparent, be driven by stakeholders and follow the science.” - Joint Statement from U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR)
“Iʼd like to thank Rep. Simpson for working with a broad coalition of interested parties across the Northwest to craft this proposal, which will help us to build on the economic opportunities of the Columbia Basin and invest in a clean energy future,” - Oregon Governor Kate Brown
“Washington welcomes Rep. Simpson’s willingness to think boldly about how to recover Columbia and Snake River salmon in a way that works for the entire region and invests – at a potentially transformative level – in clean energy, transportation and agriculture.” - Washington State Governor Jay Inslee
“We will support Congressman Simpson’s initiative and we respect the courage and vision he is showing the region. This is an opportunity for multiple regional interests to align with a better future for the Northwest: river restoration and salmon recovery; local and regional economic investment and infrastructure improvement; and long-term legal resolution and certainty.” - Chairman Shannon Wheeler, Nez Perce Tribe
“There is potential for a lot of healing with this legislation.” – Chairman Shannon Wheeler, Nez Perce Tribe
"Restoring the lower Snake River will allow salmon, steelhead, and lamprey to flourish in the rivers and streams of the Snake Basin. This has long been a priority because these are the CTUIR's ancestral traditional use areas, such as the Grande Ronde, Imnaha, Lostine, Minam, Tucannon and Wallowa Rivers and their tributaries." - Chairwoman Kat Brigham, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
"I urge our Senators and Congressional Representatives to join Congressman Simspon in advocating for legislation to breach the lower Snake River dams, and taking bold action to restore our salmon." - Chairman Delano Saluskin, Yakama Nation
"Addressing the impacts to the Columbia River Region in a holistic way will require the Region and its political leaders to display the same courage, Congressman Simpson has displayed in releasing this proposed framework. Many details will need to be worked through and many hearts and minds won over, however, acknowledging that they system is not working for the entire Region is a big step forward.” - Chairwoman Carol Evans, Spokane Tribe of Indians
As Shoshone and Bannock peoples of Idaho, we have co-existed within an ecological system from time immemorial. Our traditional culture is based on the fish and wildlife that provide subsistence for our people. We fully support this wide-ranging initiative that would substantially help salmon recovery in Idaho.” - Chairman Devon Boyer, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation
“For the past five decades, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have been working to restore the Snake River and our salmon runs. With the dams in place, we have experienced impacts to our culture, spirituality, and our way of life; we need to change the system in order for salmon and our people (Newe) to survive.” - Claudeo Broncho, Fish and Wildlife Policy Representative, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation
"Rep. Simpson supports an historic investment in infrastructure to protect Snake River salmon from extinction, while converting the region’s energy, transportation, and irrigation sectors to meet 21st century demands. This proposal will be a major step in restoring the Snake River ecosystem to its natural state giving its ancestral salmon runs a chance at survival. This proposal is visionary and long overdue. Tribes are co-managers of the Columbia River Basin and hold unique rights through our treaties, including the right to access fish in perpetuity. This right has been ignored for nearly two centuries, leading to the decimated fish runs we see today. Healthy Columbia River fishing runs support fishermen from the coast to the plateau including our spiritual relatives the Southern Resident Killer Whales. We look forward to working with the Northwest congressional delegation, other Tribal leaders, and elected representatives from throughout the region on a plan to save Snake River salmon from extinction while protecting the climate, respecting Treaty rights, and enhancing Columbia Basin salmon runs." – Chairman Leonard Forsman, Suquamish Tribe & President, Affiliated Tribes of NW Indians
"It’s a serious plan at a unique time and it deserves to be vetted and heard." - Kurt Miller, Northwest River Partners
“We want to be thoughtful about and not retrench into traditional positions but give it a fair shot and at the same time approach it with a critical eye -- one that makes sure the questions get answered.” - Kurt Miller, Northwest RiverPartners
"We respect Congressman Simpson, and appreciate his interest in salmon recovery in the Columbia River Basin. BPA looks forward to more conversations about this concept, and the region's environmental and economic future." - John Hairston, Bonneville Power Administration
“We’ve spent decades making minor improvements and adjustments that simply haven’t worked, and what we really need is serious funding and a major overhaul.” - Liz Hamilton, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association
“I think we need to look at it with an open mind. We need to look and examine all pieces of that before we say ‘Oh, it’s impossible’ or ‘Absolutely not.’ ” - Scott Corbitt, Valley Vision
“I remain optimistic that through open dialogue, curiosity and a focus on ends versus means, we can find a path forward that includes the interests and needs of the power sector, as well as those of numerous other groups and communities,” - Debra Smith, Seattle City Light
"We are going to have to get a lot more information about what this entails all the way from replacement of the power to transmission services to fish and wildlife costs going forward,” - K. David Hagen, Clearwater Power
“This is the first meaningful approach any elected official has made public that recognizes the only way to recover Idaho’s salmon and steelhead to meaningful abundance is to untangle the gargantuan and crippling bureaucratic knot that is now also failing ratepayers and taxpayers. The scope of this proposal will be a massive and decades long - possibly perpetual - shot in the arm for the economies of North Idaho, and Eastern Washington and Oregon.” - Brian Brooks, Idaho Wildlife Federation
“Congressman Mike Simpson’s new Columbia Basin Fund opens the door to a long-awaited and necessary set of solutions to Idaho’s salmon and steelhead crisis. The framework set forth in the plan outlines a path to forestall the extinction of Idaho’s salmon while also ensuring that important industries and communities that depend on the current Snake River System have the means and support to adapt and thrive.” - Aaron Lieberman, Idaho Outfitters & Guides Association
“There are those who talk and those who lead. We applaud Congressman Simpson for his bold leadership to mobilize support in Congress for a comprehensive and lasting plan that would make significant investments in the Northwest economy while recovering the salmon and steelhead that define the region."
- Chris Wood, Trout Unlimited
"What he's proposing is so much bigger than dams. It's about the region. It's about working together to break out of the status quo, which has kept the region in conflict." - Justin Hayes of the Idaho Conservation League
V. 'Urgency and Opportunity': Rep. Simpson's proposal: