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Restore the Snake River

Delivery to U.S. Congress, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Secretary of the Interior Haaland, and Secretary of Energy Granholm

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What’s At Stake

The Snake River’s future is not certain – yet. But crucial support for dramatic change is growing fast. Help us get the job done.

First, Senator Murray and Governor Inslee released their long-awaited final report, which said that the “status quo is not an option,” “saving salmon and other iconic species in the Columbia basin is imperative,” and that “the impacts and benefits of breaching the dams are significant, but they can and must be mitigated or replaced.” Then, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a report showing that, in the effort to protect Snake River salmon, “the centerpiece action is restoring the lower Snake River via dam breaching.”

On top of the support from NOAA and Washington’s elected leaders, the Biden administration said in an August filing with the Court in our long-running litigation:

"The Biden Administration is committed to supporting development of a durable long-term strategy to restore salmon and other native fish populations to healthy and abundant levels, honoring Federal commitments to Tribal Nations, delivering affordable and reliable clean power, and meeting the many resilience needs of stakeholders across the region. The Administration recognizes that business as usual will not achieve the goals of restoring salmon populations and ecosystem functions... and many areas remain inaccessible to them. In the face of climate change, urgent action is needed to restore salmon and other native fish populations to healthy and abundant levels. The Administration is committed to rapidly engaging on comprehensive, durable solutions in the Columbia River Basin."

With this overarching commitment from the administration and scientific clarity from NOAA, we believe we have the best opportunity yet to reach a decision by the end of this administration’s first term to restore the lower Snake River. Of course, a decision that meets these commitments will have to address impacts to the communities and interests the current river system supports including providing clean, renewable and reliable energy for the Northwest as we decarbonize our electric grid. In order to seize this historic opportunity, we’ve extended our litigation pause for another year to give us more time to work out the details.

This progress would not have been possible without the efforts of people like you. In the last year, Earthjustice supporters like you sent 220,000 letters to elected officials calling for action. We need to keep this momentum up as we move into a new year to make sure the Biden administration meets its commitments and that the new Congress moves towards authorizing dam breaching and begins to make the necessary investments in Snake River communities to replace the dam’s services.

This fight isn’t just about the flow of a river — it’s about holding the government accountable to its promises. The government, through treaties with Native American Tribes and the legal requirements of the Endangered Species Act, promised that Snake River salmon and Southern Resident Orcas (of which only 72 remain) would not become extinct but would be restored. Our leaders have now acknowledged that the business-as-usual approach of past decades will break those promises, but we need your help to do the hard part — move them from commitment to action.

Join us in calling on the Biden administration and your members of Congress to make good on their responsibilities by breaching the Snake River dams and investing in Snake River communities.

Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) in Little Redfish Lake Creek. Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho.
Neil Ever Osborne / Save Our Wild Salmon / iLCP

Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) in Little Redfish Lake Creek, Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho. Salmon will have greater access to spawning grounds in Idaho if the lower Snake River dams are removed.

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

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You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue. Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn more about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.