We’re coming down to the wire. February 7, 2017 is the last day to ask federal agencies to remove four aging dams on the lower Snake River. Since October, more than 250,000 people have submitted comments demanding dam removal. Now, there are just a few days left to support the largest river restoration project in U.S. history.
The Columbia-Snake river system was once home to one of the greatest salmon runs in the world. Now, all the remaining Snake River salmon face extinction because four dams—Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite—prevent the fish from migrating upriver to spawn in pristine cold-water streams. Three federal agencies—the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation—are tasked with creating a plan to save Columbia and Snake River salmon and they will be deciding the dams’ fate.
They’ve asked the public for input, and the response has been astounding. From fishermen in Oregon to concerned citizens in Idaho, people across the U.S. are adamant about one thing: The lower Snake River dams need to go.
Some comments emphasize the dams’ threat to the sport and commercial fishing industries. “I live and work along the lower Columbia River, and my work and ability to support my family depend on strong runs of salmon and steelhead,” writes Evan Burck of Portland, Oregon.
“I live and work along the lower Columbia River, and my work and ability to support my family depend on strong runs of salmon and steelhead”
Other comments point to the urgent need for change in light of massive sockeye salmon die-offs in 2015. That year, some of the earliest and hottest weather on record warmed the water in the dammed Colombia river system and killed the majority of all adult sockeye salmon migrating in June and July.
Still other comments describe dam removal as a smarter use of taxpayer dollars. The price of maintaining the four lower Snake River dams has skyrocketed and will continue to climb, costing hundreds of millions of dollars. People who ship goods on the lower Snake River navigation system pay only 15 cents for every dollar required for dam repairs, meaning that taxpayers are subsidizing the rest.
“These dams don’t make sense for people or for salmon,” writes Edwina Allen of Boise, Idaho. “Let’s put our tax dollars where they can build a better future, not toward spending huge amounts on repairing aging, outdated dams.”
“These dams don’t make sense for people or for salmon”
Proponents of the dams argue that they provide essential electricity to the Pacific Northwest. However, if the dams were removed, new renewable energy generation capacity in the region could more than pick up the slack. In one year, the region’s renewable energy sources produce more than 2.5 times as much energy as all four lower Snake River dams combined. Plus, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council has concluded that the Pacific Northwest has an electricity surplus and can meet expected increases in demand through the year 2030 at least.
As federal agencies prepare to decide the fate of the lower Snake River dams, conservationists and fishing groups represented by Earthjustice have asked the U.S. district court to compel the agencies to take short-term steps in the right direction. We’ve asked them to halt major spending on the dams and to increase the amount of water that flows over dam spillways—a tactic that can improve salmon survival rates. But these are just stop-gap measures. In order for salmon to survive, the dams need to come down.
In the final days of the public comment period, you can still make your voice heard. Tell federal agencies to free the Snake, save the salmon and remove the dams.
Take Action! Restore wild salmon: remove the Lower Snake River dams