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Restoring the Lower Snake River

ST.PNWMagazine.BreachingOn March 21st, the Seattle Time’s Pacific Northwest Magazine writer Ron Judd published an article Breaching Snake River dams could save salmon and orcas, but destroy livelihoods. Below are adapted comments and linked resources recently sent to the Seattle Times by SOS' executive director Joseph Bogaard in reponse to this feature story story.

Below we have also posted some statements, letters and testimony that have been generated recently by others concerning the need for the people and stakeholders in Washington State and the Northwest to come together and work together on shared solutions for salmon, orca and our communities.


The Seattle Times 3.23 feature Breaching does a real disservice to thousands of individuals and families who are, and have been, affected by management of the Columbia and Snake River dams but whose voices do not appear in, and apparently were not sought out, by the feature’s author.  As a consequence, the story fails to accurately or fully present a set of important issues and challenges our region faces today.
 
The views, values and concerns of the people reflected in this article are valid and of course deserve to be heard. But this piece could be viewed as a lengthy promotional piece for one perspective rather than substantive and objective journalism. The S.O.S. coalition expect more from the Seattle Times and Mr. Judd (whose work has been admired for many years).
 
Moreover, the views and opinions in the article are presented without fact-checking, opposing viewpoints or objective expertise (scientific, economic, legal, agricultural, etc). Nor does the article provide any context for some important issues at its heart: legal, scientific, and economic. It suffers from cultural, historical and environmental amnesia and gives no voice to the ways of life, livelihoods and losses suffered (past and present) by people (e.g. Native American Tribes, recreational and commercial fishing communities and economies on the coast and inland to Idaho, as examples) as a result of steep salmon population declines, orca endangerment, destruction of rivers, ecosystems and fish and wildlife resources.
 
Instead of addressing the complexities of these issues, the piece provides a simplistic and incomplete narrative that affords only one perspective on the issues of river restoration, dam management and economic opportunities.   It does little to educate your readership or advance the conversation our region needs to engage: to examine opposing views and/or bring people closer toward possible solutions. The status quo today pits two important food producing communities, cultures and economies against each other – fishers and farmers – and for decades, through the path we have followed, effectively chosen sides, picked winners and left losers behind. The article reflects none of this or the many opportunities we have to do better in the future if we work together.
 
Finally, Mr. Judd’s piece glibly portrays western Washington advocates as uncaring and uncurious about the lives of people in the Inland Northwest, and eastern Washington residents as uniform in their opposition to restoring salmon and rivers. Both frames are inaccurate. These important issues: orca, salmon, energy, agriculture and communities are inextricably linked and solutions to the problems before our region will only come from people engaging in good faith with each other to listen, learn and work together on shared solutions and win-win opportunities wherever possible.
 
Many salmon, fishing and orca advocates in our region are actively seeking direct dialogue with the full range of interests in our region, especially those with whom we may disagree. Suggestions otherwise are misleading and disingenuous. Below are several examples reflecting this active work on our part and by others to bring people together, and one recent example of opposition to dialogue by interests concentrated in the Tri-Cities. None of these conversations would be adequate alone and all reflect opportunities to build trust and understanding and to encourage the collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving that is so urgently needed today.  The longer we wait to address these problems, the higher the price will be.
 
Coverage of these issues is critically important to the culture, economy and future of our region. We hope that the Seattle Times continues to educate its readership and foster conversation in the months ahead, though in a genuinely balanced, inclusive, and objective manner that accurately reflects the changes, challenges and opportunities before us. Unfortunately, Mr. Judd’s article fails to meet this standard.  

Links to further resources:

Tri-Cities Herald Guest Opinion: Just in case the dams go away. Nancy Hirsh, executive director of the NW Energy Coalition (2018)

SOS press statement re: “Free the Snake Flotilla” and Tri-Cities Riverfest (Sept. 2018).

Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force: a regional stakeholder-driven conversation under way for nearly two years to identify and development salmon recovery goals and strategies to achieve them, initiated in large part in response to persistent advocacy for stakeholder settlement talks by the conservation and fishing communities dating back 8+ years.
 
Sign-on letter signed by 29 non-governmental organizations addressed to members of the Washington State Legislature in support of funding in the state budget for (1) the lower Snake River stakeholder forum and (2) rulemaking by Department of Ecology to adjust total dissolved gas levels in order to increase spill at federal dams during the salmon out-migration during 2019-2021 (Winter 2019).

SOS Factsheet supporting a state-led, facilitated conversation re: transitions and investments that would be required if the four lower Snake River dams are to be removed. (Winter 2019)

Letter sent to Governor Inslee by the Nez Perce Tribe expressing its support for lower Snake River stakeholder forum (Jan. 2019).
 
Legislators’ letter signed by 43 state legislators, expressing support for two funding items for (1) increased spill at federal dams and (2) lower Snake River stakeholder forum (March 2019)
 
Letter from the Tri-Cities to Governor Inslee opposing stakeholder discussions (Jan. 2019)

 


 

Below are some letters recently submitted to the Seattle Times in response to this story:

Earth Ministry Executive Director Jessie Dye:

Ron Judd bemoans the divisiveness between Eastern and Western Washington and yet plays down the very means of bringing the parties – Native nations, farmers, orca and salmon advocates, energy experts – together for a serious conversation.   
 
In fact, the stakeholder process proposed by Governor Inslee would bring key leaders from both sides of the state together with high-level mediators to share common interests and find durable solutions. Environmental mediation has a successful track record in Washington. Only by taking to each other face to face can we find a way forward.

As a woman of faith, I believe that our Creator has given us stewardship of the land and waters of our home. As an experienced mediator, I know that good outcomes can be found for salmon, orcas, farmers, and tribes if we are given the opportunity to talk together with the help of skilled facilitators. That is exactly the purpose of the Governor's stakeholder mediation process. We can achieve an agreed-upon outcome, but it's going to take leadership, time and money.

May our legislators support the Governors' budget request for a stakeholder process for the Lower Snake River, on behalf of both sides of the Cascades. 

Port Townsend fisherman Amy Grondin’s Response:

Ron Judd’s 3/21/19 story pits farmers against fishermen. We’re better than that. He asked that folks from Seattle go visit the Tri-Cities. Let’s go visit the coast. 

With lumber towns a shadow of their former productivity commercial fishing sustains generations of families on the coast and feeds people all over the state.  Recreational fishing drives coastal tourism providing more jobs. We need fishermen of all sorts spending money at seaside restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, gas stations and supporting other coastal businesses.

Farmers and fishermen agree that once food producer jobs are gone they seldom come back. Look at any of the small towns – east or west - with empty store fronts, sagging piers or falling down barns. This is why the stakeholder forum recommended by the Governor’s Orca Task Force makes sense. Let’s ask the people who stand to lose so much what it will take to keep them all working. 

While federal powers will decide the fate of the four lower Snake River dams, the residents of Washington can determine how we respond to that decision. Will we be prepared with a plan or scrambling to get our footing? With or without dams we should figure this out together. 

 


 

The following testimony re: the importance of the stakeholder forum was presented in Olympia on March 25th at the House budget hearing.

The stakeholder forum was not included in this year’s house budget, but is a critical measure to help orca, salmon, and communities on both sides of the state. The forum would include numerous stakeholders and give equal voice to all the needs of the region, enabling the collaboration necessary to identify the needed infrastructure transitions for when the four lower Snake River dams are removed.

Joseph Bogaard, executive director, Save Our wild Salmon:

Good afternoon. My name is Joseph Bogaard. I am the executive director of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. SOS has staff on both sides of the Cascades and thousands of supporters across Washington State and the Pacific Northwest. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today.

Salmon and orca face extinction in Washington State today. The endangerment of these species is harming communities across the state and region and the legislature has a critical role to play to address this problem.

Two critical actions to help salmon, orca and communities – increased spill and a lower Snake River stakeholder forum - have support from the Orca Task Force, Governor Inslee, 30 NGOs, Tribal people, salmon and orca scientists and at least 43 state legislators.

We are grateful that today’s budget includes funding for a rulemaking to support increased spill. This is a critical measure to help salmon – and orca – in the near-term.

We are, however, very disappointed by the House’s failure to include funding to bring together stakeholders to talk directly, share concerns and explore options and opportunities relating to the lower Snake River, its dams and endangered salmon populations that orca rely upon. This is a low-cost investment with a high impact potential – for salmon, orca and communities.

The future of Columbia Basin salmon and Southern Resident orca depends on people working together to develop shared solutions.

On behalf of our coalition, I ask you to reconsider this decision and include this stakeholder funding in the next version of the House budget. Thank you.

For recent coverage about the House budget, see this article in the Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/house-democrats-in-olympia-unveil-52-6-billion-state-budget-plan/

The Senate budget is expected to be released in the next several days; salmon and orca advocates are asking members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee to fully fund the lower Snake River stakeholder forum as recommended by the Orca Task Force and proposed by Governor Inslee.

Amy Grondin, commercial salmon fisherman, Port Townsend, WA:

My name is Amanda Grondin and I am a commercial salmon fisherman. When I am not on the water fishing I live in Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. I am here to day to testify in support of a stakeholder forum as recommended in the final report issued by the Governor’s Orca Task Force.

It is my feeling that we need to stop speaking in terms of Farmers and Fishermen and instead talk about how we can support our small-scale family businesses that produce food in Washington State.

In the State of Washington, commercial salmon fishing permits are owned by individuals. Corporate entities are not allowed to own them. This makes every commercial salmon fishing boat in Washington a family run business. As family run businesses based out of rural coastal communities fishermen face many of the same challenge that farmers on the eastside of the state face doing business from a remote location.

This is not a time to create winners and losers of famers and fishermen. I think it’s safe to say that fishermen and farmers do not want to see the other to loose their jobs. A well planned forum that brings stakeholders from both sides of the state would prepare the residents for whatever may come down to us from the federal powers that will determine the fate of the four lower Snake River dams. Folks in DC who have never visited our state will vote one way or the other but the residents of Washington can make the call on how we respond to that decision. Will we be prepared with a plan or scrambling to get our footing? Fishermen prepare before they go to sea because they need to be ready for whatever nature throws at them. I suspect that farmers also have a back up plan. With or without dams this is one storm we should figure out how to weather together. 

I don’t want to see another small-scale business that produces food go out of business. 


You can read the article here, submit a letter-to-the-editor (send to letters@seattletimes.com), and ensure a wider set of perspectives are heard on this important set of issues. Thank you.

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