“The ecosystems of the Northwest are as interwoven as they are beautiful. There’s a cost when you put man-made walls in the middle of that web, and right now salmon and our southern resident orcas are paying the price.”

Kathleen Callaghy, northwest representative with Defenders of Wildlife.
SEATTLE, Wash.

In a joint statement, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) recently laid out a new plan to combine state and federal resources to assess the impacts and costs of breaching the four lower Snake River dams. 

“After years of advocating for the removal of these dams, our coalition—which includes dozens of environmental organizations, tribes and recreation associations—is thrilled to see this step being taken,” said Kathleen Callaghy, northwest representative with Defenders of Wildlife. “While there is no guarantee this assessment will lead to the removal of the dams, it represents concrete progress.”

Significantly, Inslee and Murray will work to complete the assessment and provide their recommendations on actions to take by the end of next July. Funding for the project is expected to come from the 2022 Water Resources Development Act.  

Salmon runs in the  Snake River are a fraction of what they once were.  These runs accounted for half of the estimated 10 million to 16 million salmon historically spawned in the Columbia River Basin, which only saw 665,000 salmon return in 2018.

Removing the dams – which block salmon migration both up and downstream and raise water temperatures to lethal levels for the cold-water loving fish – is the most impactful step we can take immediately to enable salmon survival and recovery. 

“The ecosystems of the Northwest are as interwoven as they are beautiful,” said Callaghy. “There’s a cost when you put man-made walls in the middle of that web, and right now salmon and our southern resident orcas are paying the price.”

Southern resident orcas rely on chinook salmon for 50% to 100% of their year-round diet and their population decline has been as precipitous as that of the salmon.  

There are only an estimated 73 of the endangered orcas remaining. 

“Time is of the essence to save these incredible and culturally significant whales and to restore our historical salmon runs," said Callaghy. “Removing the four lower Snake River dams is the most impactful step that can be taken to benefit  both salmon and orcas.”
 

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

Media Contact

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Hawk Hammer headshot
Hawk Hammer
Communications Specialist
hhammer@defenders.org
(202) 772-0295
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Kathleen Callaghy
Kathleen Callaghy
Northwest Representative

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