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Restoring the Lower Snake River

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defazioCongressman DeFazio has been a leader on natural resource issues for many years representing Oregon's 4th Congressional District.  As a senior member of both the Natural Resources Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he can play an important role in bringing about lasting recovery of wild salmon in the Snake River Basin and the communities that depend on them.

Read the letter to Rep. DeFazio from college students and young people in Oregon's 4th District.

Oregon's natural treasures

The vast Snake River basin includes much of northeast Oregon, including the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and several wild rivers like the Grande Ronde and Imnaha.  This river corridor is part of what was once the world's most productive salmon and steelhead watershed – upwards of 30 million salmon returned to the Columbia-Snake Basin every year with nearly half of those calling northeastern Oregon, southeastern Washington, and central Idaho home.These fish feed natural and human communities, support good jobs, and provide world-renowned fishing opportunities.

Today, these fish teeter on the brink of extinction. Four dams on the lower Snake River have reduced salmon to 1% of their historic abundance; all remaining runs of Snake River salmon and steelhead are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Ending taxpayer waste.

The federal government refuses to deviate from the status quo. It continues failed programs that we know are not working for the salmon, the rivers, or the people of the Northwest. This has come at a combined cost of over $10 billion in American taxpayer and Northwest ratepayer dollars.

What’s more, the failure of the federal government to follow the science and the law has kept salmon-dependent communities in court for almost two decades. Unless we change course, billions of additional dollars will be spent over the next several years on more of the same. It would be far more effective to spend that money  removing the dams and replacing their limited services with clean, affordable and salmon-friendly alternatives.

Transportation infrastructure

In order to meet the needs of local shippers and the regional economy, eastern Washington’s rail network will need improvements in order to effectively replace the barging transport system on the lower Snake River. When these dams are removed, downriver barge shipping would terminate at the Tri-Cities (85% of barge traffic today occurs below that point on the lower Columbia River) connecting here with truck and rail transport.

Making these needed investments in the inland Northwest’s rail infrastructure will help diversify transportation options for local farmers and boost the region’s economy.  As a leader in the Highway and Rail Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congressman DeFazio can secure these important transportation investments.

Clean energy opportunities

Right now, we’re actually producing more energy than our region consumes, so much of this power – clean and carbon-free instead heads south to markets in California.  As new sources of clean energy come online in the Pacific Northwest, the importance of lower Snake River dams’ relatively small contribution to our region’s overall energy diet continues to shrink. Our region cannot only survive, but indeed thrive, without the 1,075 aMW generated by these dams.

What's more, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council recently found that the Northwest can meet its energy demand over the next 20 years, retire existing coal plants, and remove the four lower Snake River dams with relatively small costs by replacing that energy with energy efficiency and renewables.  Northwest ratepayers would see their energy bills decrease over the next 20 years even with dam removal.

Dialogue and solutions.

Many leaders in the Northwest, including Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), support an inclusive, all-options stakeholder process in order to best achieve salmon recovery in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.  With wild salmon populations still teetering on the brink of extinction, it's time for a new approach.

This solutions-oriented dialogue can lead to a salmon restoration blueprint that recovers an invaluable resource while enhancing local communities. In the Northwest we still can have it all – abundant salmon, healthy fishing, thriving agriculture, and clean, affordable energy – but we leadership from our elected officials today.


Take a moment to send a message to Congressman DeFazio.

Call his office: 202.225.6416

Take Action online:

Urge Congressman DeFazio to support a stakeholder process – bringing together fishermen, farmers, energy users, and decision-makers – to craft durable solutions for the Columbia and Snake Rivers based on sound science and economics.

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