Summary

Public comment is sought on a report released as part of a federal-state 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. Salmon support many predators including the Southern Resident killer whales, as well as tribes and commercial fisheries. Yet now all Snake River salmon are on the Endangered Species list, with little hope for recovery without a substantial intervention such as dam breaching.

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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I support breaching the four lower Snake River dams to save wild Chinook salmon & the endangered orcas that rely on them.
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1 Killer Whale1 Day20 Chinook Salmon

1 Killer Whale1 Day20 Chinook Salmon

Species at Risk

Snake River Chinook

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.

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Governor Jay Inslee, Senator Patty Murray

Sample Letter

Dear Senator Murray and Governor Inslee,

Thank you for your leadership in commissioning an independent review of the cost of replacing the services provided by the four lower Snake River dams.

The report clearly shows that these services can—and must—be replaced at all costs, so that the vital ecosystem services provided by wild salmon can fully function again to sustain all who benefit or rely on them.

The Southern Resident killer whales are dependent on Chinook salmon year-round, including Snake River populations. Yet as the report shows, these are at or below 1% of their pre-dam numbers. Without these historically important prey sources, the Southern Resident killer whales continue to be at risk of extinction. Insufficient Chinook salmon increases the risk of miscarriage and amplifies the harmful effects of vessels, and contaminants such as PCBs.

Breaching these dams would restore 140 miles of Snake River—increasing spawning habitat 15-fold—and greatly improve passage to all fish species using this river system.

This report, and indeed a number of other studies, have made it clear that dam breaching is our best—and likely our only—chance to prevent the extinction of Snake River Chinook, and so in turn save the Southern Resident killer whales.

Sincerely,

Optional Talking Points

If you use your own words, or additional phrases, you can make your letter unique.

The lower Snake River dams (LSRD) have:

  • altered physical, chemical, hydrological, and biological river processes
  • changed the river from free-flowing to a series of reservoirs
  • prevented access to important salmon spawning habitat
  • created slack water conditions that favor species which prey on salmon

Removing the LSRD would:

  • restore 140 miles of Snake River to rehabilitate river habitat
  • increase spawning habitat from 226 acres to 3,521 acres
  • decrease the need for hatchery salmon by increasing wild salmon
  • provide a reliable prey source for Southern Resident killer whales
Submit commentsStep-by-Step Instructions

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Copy our sample letter above as your guide
  2. Customize with our optional talking points
  3. Make it personal, but with facts, not emotion
  4. Be polite, not angry
  5. Be sure to say thank you.

Now click here to send your letter.

Thank you for taking action on behalf of endangered wild orca!