Rivers and streams are essential to wild salmon, nurturing their young and providing essential spawning habitat. These nutrient-rich salmon feed entire ecosystems from forests to oceans where wild orcas fish. With thousands of miles of essential spawning habitat now inaccessible behind largely obsolete dams, the future’s bleak for wild salmon, and the endangered whales that depend on them.

Why it Matters

Wild Pacific salmon spend most of their lives in the Pacific Ocean, but freshwater rivers and streams are where their lives begin and end. By removing aging dams blocking access to their historic spawning habitat, we can restore wild salmon to our rivers and seas, and save starving orcas.

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Take Action

Tell Senator Maria Cantwell to restore salmon and save Southern Resident killer whales from extinction by removing the four lower Snake River dams.

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Key Talking Points

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  • Dams are a major factor in the decline of wild Pacific salmon, cutting off access to critical spawning habitat, and limiting successful reproduction.
  • Dam removal would restore over 140 miles of the lower Snake River and open access to thousands of miles of salmon spawning habitat in the Columbia River Basin.
  • Salmon have successfully re-colonized stretches of rivers unused for decades following other dam removals.
  • The cost of maintaining this aging infrastructure, producing hatchery salmon, and trucking fish across dams gets more expensive every year. Nature will provide these services without charge if you allow it.


Rivers, Salmon & Killer Whales

Snake River Chinook salmon historically relied on by the Southern Resident killer whales are at less than 1% of their pre-dam numbers. Studies like ours analyzing their fecal samples show that insufficient Chinook salmon increases the risk of miscarriage, with 69% of pregnancies failing. Malnutrition amplifies the harmful effects of other environmental stressors, such as vessels and contaminants.

The Columbia River Basin was once one of the most important salmon-producing river systems in the world, likely responsible for over half the Chinook salmon in the orcas’ range. The mouth of the Columbia River is still a vital orca foraging hotspot, and in 2019, NOAA scientists proposed “critical habitat” for this region.

Dammed to Extinction

The Snake is the largest river flowing into the Columbia River Basin and is a critical salmon migration route from Idaho through Oregon and Washington. In the 1960s, the Government built four dams on the Lower Snake River, blocking access to thousands of miles of historic salmon spawning habitat and endangering the future of wild salmon in this river system.

In 2000, NOAA Fisheries acknowledged removing these dams would help recover endangered salmon (and whales) but still does not propose their removal. This is despite numerous legal challenges and rulings and with successful recoveries of other salmon ecosystems following dam breaches.