Summary

Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee are seeking public comment on a report released as part of a process to determine “whether there are reasonable means for replacing the services and benefits provided by the four lower Snake River dams,” in order to “support dam breaching as part of a salmon recovery strategy.” This shows that the dams’ services are indeed replaceable, unlike Pacific salmon who provide irreplaceable services to our river, forest and ocean ecosystems.

Why it Matters

Southern Resident killer whales rely almost exclusively on Chinook salmon and the Snake River once supported half the Chinook in the Columbia River Basin. As one of the most important salmon-producing river systems in the world, it likely provided more than 50% of the Chinook in the whales’ entire west coast range. After dam construction, 140 miles of Snake River became inaccessible and its wild salmon declined by 90%. Breaching the four lower Snake River dams would recover 3,000 acres of lost spawning and rearing habitat. By saving Snake River Chinook, we may also save these endangered killer whales from extinction.

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Take Action

Tell Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee that you support breaching the four lower Snake River dams to save wild Chinook salmon & the endangered orcas that rely on them.
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Snake River Chinook Salmon

Dams have changed the river from free-flowing to a series of reservoirs. This significantly limits salmon spawning in the main river channel, and creates conditions that favor other species, many of which prey on salmon. Consequently some Snake River salmon are rapidly reaching the “Quasi-Extinction Threshold.” Put simply, their population is so small their survival is uncertain. Despite being protected for 30 years, management actions taken to date have been ineffective at preventing their extinction.

Southern Resident Killer Whales

Snake River Chinook of importance to the Southern Resident killer whales are close to 1% of their pre-dam numbers. Without these historically important prey sources, this endangered killer whale population continues to be at risk of extinction with too few births and too many premature deaths. Studies analyzing their fecal samples show that insufficient Chinook salmon greatly increases the risk of miscarriage, and amplifies the harmful effects of others stressors such as vessels and contaminants.