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Restore the Snake River

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What’s At Stake

The fate of Snake River salmon — and the dams that endanger them — could be decided this summer. That’s right. After multiple decades of litigation, both sides agreed to pause the lawsuits for a year and work out a plan that does right by the salmon and Snake River communities. That pause ends at the end of July, but the good news is Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington just released a draft report describing a real path forward. Join us in making a public comment in support of the report’s conclusions and sending a letter to your senators urging them to support breaching the Snake River dams.

The report makes clear what tribes, environmental groups, and people like you have been saying for a long time — the best thing we can do to help Snake River salmon is to breach the dams, and we can make investments in the region that will more than make up for the economic services the dams currently provide.

Opponents of dam breaching will likely point to the predicted cost of breaching the dams and making investments in Snake River communities over the next 50 years as a reason to maintain the status quo. The truth is, the cost of keeping the dams and not making those investment is far higher – extinction of Snake River salmon and steelhead, destruction of a way of life for Native Americans, loss of fishing jobs and communities and billions more in investments to keep the aging dams providing the limited services they offer. The federal government has already spent some $20 billion on failed and illegal plans to restore healthy salmon populations in the Snake and Columbia basin. It’s time we stop pouring more good money into bad investments and spend money on solutions that will actually work.

We don’t have any more time to waste. Salmon populations and the highly endangered orcas that rely on them are headed towards extinction, but we can restore thriving salmon runs and literally pump life into Northwest ecosystems if we breach four dams on the lower Snake River. These dams stop salmon from accessing millions of acres of prime spawning habitat and make the lower Snake River a lethally hot gauntlet for these fish.

But, after decades of campaigning, we finally have acknowledgement from state and federal officials that breaching the dams is key to protecting Snake River salmon and the orcas that rely on them. The Murray-Inslee report is a blueprint for kick starting the largest river restoration in history, providing long-overdue justice for Native American Tribes, and making investments needed to build a clean energy future that includes strong farming, fishing, recreation, and port businesses.

We’re in the endgame on this, and we need your help to see it through. Join us in making a public comment on the draft report and contacting your members of Congress to support Snake River salmon.

An orca breaching
Kelley Balcomb-Bartok

An orca breaching.

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.