Action team calls on congress to fund removal of lower Snake River Dams | Guest Column

Submitted by the Orcas Women’s Coalition’s Environmental Action Team

The Orcas Women’s Coalition’s Environmental Action Team recently adopted a resolution that calls for congress, by Dec. 31 to set aside funds and draw up plans for the breaching or removal of the four Lower Snake River dams in the Columbia Snake River System.

We adopted this resolution in order to help recover wild salmon, steelhead and other native fish of the Snake River and Columbia River Basin. The Southern Resident Killer Whales (“orca whales”) rely on wild Chinook salmon of which almost 50% historically came from the Snake River but today only between 1-2% of adult wild fish return. In fact all of the Snake River’s wild salmon and steelhead face extinction as do the Southern Resident Killer Whales (orca whales).

Although the orca whales are in the Salish Sea (their “Summer Core Area Critical Habitat”) roughly 1/3 of each year, they rely intrinsically on Columbia River Basin salmon as they travel both to and from our area. This is also an issue of restoring broken Tribal Nations’ treaty rights and preserving indigenous peoples’ cultural values. A 2021 resolution of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians stated “…these [Lower Snake River] dams and others were built through the use and destruction of lands, rivers and fisheries we have lived with for millennia.”

EAT found out belatedly, this past February, that the Biden Administration had joined the already existing initiative to study these dams created by Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee. This is the first time in decades that a presidential administration has joined the effort to help decide the fate of these dams and to study the replacement of services these dams may provide. Biden’s Council for Environmental Quality has been conducting listening sessions around our region to gather input for a findings report due out in July. Their draft report is due out this very month (May). Our county has not been included in these sessions and our County Council refused to put our Resolution on an upcoming agenda for discussion. And as a county situated in the middle of critical habitat for the orcas and with wild salmon and the orcas both on the brink, our own place at any fact-finding table is conspicuously empty. We need to enter this discussion and the time to have our voices heard has almost run out.

What can you do? I realize there are many national and global issues claiming our attention right now. But this issue is supremely time-sensitive and you can make a difference. Simply use the scientific citations within our EAT Resolution, (a link to the resolution is shown below) for your own reference when contacting our legislators. Here is contact info you may need.

President Biden’s CEQ directly at:

Governor Inslee: 360-902-4111

Senator Murray: 206-553-5545

Senator Cantwell: 202-224-3441

Rep. Larsen: 360-733-4500

State Rep. Lekanoff:

State Rep. Ramel:

State Sen. Lovelett:

And here’s a survey which feeds directly into the initiative. It’s not necessary to answer each question. Just explain what you know: