Breaching the dams of the lower Snake River

Sep 21, 2019
Removing the four dams on the lower Snake River will restore 140 miles of river and over 14,000 acres of riparian habitat and bottomlands. It will cut dam-caused salmon mortality by at least 50% and restore productive access for wild salmon and steelhead to over 5,500 miles of contiguous, pristine, protected upriver habitat in northeast Oregon, central Idaho and southeast Washington. Restoring a freely-flowing lower Snake River will deliver tremendous economic, ecological and cultural benefits to the tribal and non-tribal people of the Northwest and the nation.
Climate change increases the urgency to remove these four dams and restore this river. Harmful water temperatures in the lower Snake River's four reservoirs are now routine. Their frequency, duration and intensity have been steadily growing in the last several decades - with increasingly devastating impacts on out-migrating juvenile fish and adults returning from the Pacific Ocean to spawn. In 2015, for example, just 1% of 4000 adult Snake River sockeye that entered the Columbia's mouth reached their Idaho spawning gravels; others perished in warm reservoir waters impounded by federal dams on the lower Snake and lower Columbia Rivers. A restored lower Snake will dramatically lower water temperatures and again offer diverse habitats found in living rivers, including additional coldwater refugia currently lost as a result of these reservoirs today.
The federal government's current approach to protecting wild salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia-Snake Basin has failed - five consecutive federal salmon plans have been ruled inadequate and illegal by three different judges across more than twenty years. During this time, federal agencies have spent more than $10 billion of public money, but have yet to recover a single salmon or steelhead population.
The economics of these four dams have been in question since even before their construction in the 1960s and 1970s. Their always modest services - especially energy and transportation, - have been in steep decline as the dams' maintenance and operations costs rapidly rise. Their benefits can be easily, cost-effectively replaced with reliable, effective alternatives like wind, solar and rail.
A restored, resilient lower Snake River will protect endangered wild salmon and steelhead facing extinction; save American taxpayer and Northwest energy consumer dollars; create thousands of jobs regionally; benefit struggling fish and wildlife populations including endangered Southern Resident Orcas; and help ensure compliance of Treaty obligations to Native American Tribes in the Columbia Basin.
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