Give a Dam—Free the Snake River

Salmon and steelhead are the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest in more ways than one. Culturally, ecologically, and economically, they are linked to the well-being of our region, yet they have been neglected for far too long. The Snake River connects the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, and its salmon support that entire ecosystem—from feeding the Southern Resident orcas to fertilizing entire forests along this journey.

Tribes all across the Pacific Northwest, particularly the Nimiipuu and Palouse, rely on the Snake River salmon to maintain their culture and livelihood. Snake River salmon are also relied upon by fishing communities throughout our region.

The Snake River dams and their reservoirs have broken this relationship. The Snake River is a vital artery carrying life to the Pacific Northwest and it’s been blocked. Walls of concrete have made accessing 5,500 miles of pristine spawning habitat a grueling and deadly task for salmon and steelhead. Since the construction of these dams in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, the wild salmon population on the Snake River has plummeted. Despite over $20 billion being spent on salmon recovery efforts basin wide since 1975, this trend continues. According to a study done by the Nez Perce Tribe, 42% of spring and summer chinook salmon on the Snake River are at the threshold for quasi-extinction. The Southern Resident orcas are also nearing functional extinction.

The 1855 Treaty of Walla Walla guaranteed protected and unaltered fishing rights to the tribes along the Snake River. The scientific consensus is that if these dams stay in place, the Snake River salmon will go extinct. Congress must work to uphold this treaty and preserve the connection between tribes and salmon.

As members of Congress, you have the power to save the Snake River salmon. The Snake River dams must be breached on the quickest possible timeline and their services replaced. We have the unique opportunity to construct an energy system that is truly sustainable for the entire ecosystem, improve our rail infrastructure and carry out the largest river restoration project in North America. We have an opportunity to build a Pacific Northwest that serves us all.

We recognize the Biden Administration's efforts cooperating with tribes, federal agencies, and the Washington state legislature to make plans for replacing existing services of the dams. This has been a step in the right direction, however it does not include a solid plan for breaching the Lower Snake River dams and thus neglects the urgent situation facing our wild salmon populations. A recent NOAA report stated that breaching the Snake River dams is “essential” and a “centerpiece action” for the recovery of Snake River salmon and steelhead.

We are calling on Senator Maria Cantwell, Senator Patty Murray, Congressman Rick Larsen, Congresswoman Pramilla Jayapal, and Congresswoman Kim Schrier to publicly support Snake River Dam breaching and to move forward with authorizing their removal with the rest of the Northwest Delegation.

We are living in an age of extinction, but you have the direct power to save our region’s salmon and steelhead. We cannot afford to ignore the Snake River salmon crisis any longer.

Thank you for your time,

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