“Defenders urges policymakers to take swift action to make the infrastructure investments necessary to enable dam removal. With Southern Resident orcas increasingly reliant on Columbia River Basin salmon, restoring these runs to abundance is absolutely critical to preventing their extinction. With only 73 whales left, there is no time waste."
Defenders of Wildlife and groups across the Northwest today called on elected leaders from the region to fulfill their commitment to salmon restoration in the Columbia Basin, including breaching the four lower Snake River dams as soon as possible.
“Defenders urges policymakers to take swift action to make the infrastructure investments necessary to enable dam removal," said Kathleen Callaghy, Northwest Representative, Defenders of Wildlife. With Southern Resident orcas increasingly reliant on Columbia River Basin salmon, restoring these runs to abundance is absolutely critical to preventing their extinction. With only 73 whales left, there is no time waste."
On Thursday, Washington Sen. Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee released recommendations on the dams, as well as a final report on replacing their services. The officials said they are committed to action that will make dam breaching viable, noting that extinction of salmon and the orca that feed on them is “categorically unacceptable.” They stressed the need for immediate action to replace—or mitigate—the dams’ services in advance of breaching.
Organizations called Sen. Murray’s and Gov. Inslee’s recommendations a presumptive path to dam replacement.
In a statement, Gov. Inslee said that the status quo is not an option, and that saving salmon is imperative. “The state and federal governments should implement a plan to replace the benefits of the Lower Snake River Dams to enable breaching to move forward,” Inslee said.
“We will not permit Washington state to lose its salmon,” the governor and senator promised in their recommendations.
Organizations said they would hold state and national leadership accountable to their commitment to expeditious movement, which organizations said includes breaching the dams by the end of the decade.
In addition to Defenders, other organizations released the following statements:
“The Sierra Club applauds Senator Murray and Governor Inslee for setting forth a presumptive path for breaching the four lower Snake River dams as part of a Columbia Basin salmon plan. The Snake River is the single best opportunity to restore salmon abundance on the West Coast, help our orca, and begin to address long neglected treaty rights responsibilities to the tribes. The joint statement made clear we need to replace the services of the dams before we remove them. The statement was also clear that ‘extinction of salmon, orca and other iconic species in the Pacific Northwest is categorically unacceptable’ and ‘breaching of the Lower Snake River Dams should be an option...and that it must be an option we strive to make viable.’ As the final report from Murray/Inslee shows we can responsibly replace the services from the dams. We call on the Northwest delegation to join with Senator Murray, Governor Inslee, and the Biden Administration to put the investments in place as expeditiously as possible to replace the services and breach the dams to avoid extinction and secure abundant salmon recovery. We are committed to working with all parties to move this forward and hold our leadership accountable for following through on these commitments.”
Bill Arthur, Chair, Sierra Club Snake/Columbia River Salmon Campaign
“We agree with the recommendations from Senator Murray and Governor Inslee that lower Snake River dam replacement services can and must be in place so we can breach the Snake River dams as soon as possible. We are pleased to see the emphasis on taking action now, as it is vital to enabling this transformation. While the path forward toward a decarbonized energy system will have its challenges, the region must lean into comprehensive planning and implementation now, so that we can begin to acquire the suite of clean energy resources that will maintain an affordable, clean, and more reliable energy grid. Thank you, Senator Murray and Governor Inslee, for helping to chart our direction."
Nancy Hirsh, Executive Director, NW Energy Coalition
“The fishing and conservation groups Earthjustice represents recently agreed to extend a stay of their litigation over dam operations because we believe this is a moment of opportunity for the Biden Administration to work in close coordination with Senator Murray, Governor Inslee, and the rest of the Northwest delegation to address and resolve this decades-long controversy. We will continue our work to advocate for removal of the four lower Snake River dams, which is the only solution to restore healthy wild salmon.”
Todd True, Senior Attorney Northwest Regional Office, Earthjustice
“NSIA will be forever grateful to leadership that recognizes that for fish and the fishing industry to succeed, we all must succeed. Our industry has paid the price for the decimation of Snake River stocks, and we are eager to get to work with other leaders in the region to modernize our power, irrigation and transportation systems. Leadership that brings us together for solutions will bring salmon, steelhead and our industry back from the brink. But we need to start today in order to preserve these iconic fish runs and the communities that depend upon them.”
Liz Hamilton, Executive Director, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association
“Governor Inslee and Senator Murray claim that salmon extinction and the status quo are unacceptable. But today’s recommendations will have tribes, salmon, orcas, and the communities that rely on them getting their pie in the sky (if they still exist), after we spend decades showering powerful interests with federal money. This sounds suspiciously like the status quo.”
Miles Johnson, Senior Attorney, Columbia Riverkeeper
“Inaction is the greatest ally of extinction and today's report from Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee provides a critical roadmap of the actions necessary to save imperiled salmon populations. The Murray-Inslee report, combined with the recent words and reports from the Biden administration, and the ongoing leadership of Rep. Simpson, Rep. Blumenauer, and Gov. Brown, together demonstrate a shared commitment to a comprehensive and inclusive approach to salmon recovery that leaves no one behind. Now it's essential that we transform these commitments into action, including breaching the Lower Snake River dams, to ensure we restore abundant salmon populations, fulfill treaty obligations to Columbia River Tribes, and revitalize the Northwest’s economy for future generations.”
Collin O’Mara, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation
"This moment is urgent for salmon recovery in the Columbia River Basin, and we are closer than we’ve ever been to resolving the decades-long conflict between dams and salmon in the Pacific Northwest. We are inspired by the Inslee-Murray report, and the leadership of Gov. Brown and Rep. Blumenauer. We look to our elected leaders across the Pacific Northwest to join them to swiftly advance a comprehensive solution to replace the services that the lower Snake River dams provide and save salmon from certain extinction.”
Jason Wedemeyer, Executive Director, Association of Northwest Steelheaders
“Recovery is within our grasp: we can bring back our fish and do so in a way that strengthens the regional economy, repairs critical infrastructure, retains services, and lifts Columbia Basin communities. Senator Murray and Governor Inslee have shown us a path forward, but we must move quickly beyond these recommendations to pass legislation, remove the lower four Snake River dams, and make critical investments while there is still time for Pacific Northwest salmon and steelhead.”
Greg McReynolds, Snake River Campaign Director, Trout Unlimited
“Mile-for-mile, the Snake River basin contains the coldest, most undisturbed stream habitats in the Lower 48. The bottom line is that if we are going to make major investments in wild fish recovery, the Snake is the place to put our money. Restoring a free-flowing Snake River is the most significant action we can take for Pacific salmon and steelhead in the contiguous United States.
Helen Neville, Chief Scientist, Trout Unlimited
"Conservation and fishing advocates across the Northwest are deeply grateful for the leadership of Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee for their efforts to address one of our nation’s largest and most pressing river restoration, salmon recovery, and environmental justice issues. The framework Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee provided today marks an historic step toward ending decades of loss, uncertainty and expense associated with a failing status quo. Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee have clearly stated we should move forward with a plan to replace the benefits of LSRD, and implement a new comprehensive approach to protect and recover salmon and steelhead populations facing extinction today. Our region and nation must work together to develop and begin to implement a plan to restore the lower Snake River, honor the treaty rights of Northwest tribes, invest and upgrade aging infrastructure, and create new economic opportunities for communities across our state and region that includes coastal and inland farmers and fishers. We understand there is much work to do to transition the services the lower Snake River Dams provide. We are ready to work, with the urgency the situation demands, with state and federal policymakers, Tribes, stakeholders, and communities to ensure a strategic, effective transition."
Joseph Bogaard, Executive Director, Save Our wild Salmon Coalition
“In the decades-long effort to recover salmon and steelhead, science has finally taken precedence over hyperbole. We are on the precipice of undertaking the largest river restoration and species recovery project in history, coupled with a transformational shift in upgrading critical infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest. We need swift action and bold leadership from our other elected officials to bring this across the finish line. We understand there is much to be done to plan and secure investments to transition the LSRD services effectively, yet emphasize the urgency of this matter.”
Nic Nelson, Executive Director, Idaho Rivers United
“This is a watershed moment in the standoff over the Snake River dams. Senator Murray and Governor Inslee are clear – the dams are replaceable, and the status quo is done. It will take hard work, and the dams cannot come out today, but now is the moment to build a clean energy future that doesn’t sacrifice Snake River salmon or ignore the many injustices perpetuated by these dams against the Columbia River Basin Tribes.”
Giulia Good Stefani, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council
“Senator Murray and Governor Inslee have laid out what is necessary for river restoration. We agree that the dams’ most important services can and must be replaced, but time is of the essence. If we actually want to restore salmon and steelhead, Murray and Inslee must establish a concrete timeline for completing necessary studies and infrastructure improvements, deauthorizing the dams, and restoring the lower Snake River. Across the Northwest, people are recognizing that the status quo is unsustainable, irresponsible, and unjust. It’s time to act and deliver a future that makes all communities whole, including those who’ve been left behind for far too long."
Mitch Cutter, Salmon & Steelhead Associate, Idaho Conservation League