It is now that President Biden has a unique opportunity to turn the tide by including dam breaching in a settlement for the lawsuit; National Wildlife Federation v. National Marine Fisheries Service, pending in Oregon.
NOW, while the settlement is being negotiated is the critical time to advocate for breaching the Lower Snake River Dams.
Settlement negotiations are underway at this moment and a decision whether to breach has likely been kicked up to President Biden and Senior Advisor John Podesta.
We ask that you take immediate action by reaching out to Mr. Podesta at the White House.
Text a Message to 302-404-0880
Call and leave a Message 202-456-1111 Tu-We-Th, 11-3 EST
Time is of the essence.
Messages encouraging doing the right thing by breaching the four lower Snake River dams can help move the needle.
Breaching would recover salmon, steelhead and orcas, and begin to uphold indigenous people’s rights.
Skip to minute 11 to hear President Biden's commitment to recovering salmon in the Columbia River [misspoken as the Colorado River], of which the Snake River is the largest tributary. If this happens in the near-term, we could live in a changed universe.
TO: The White House
I am writing about a decades long situation in the Pacific Northwest that is beyond crisis stage. Four dams on the lower Snake River have been killing salmon and steelhead populations for 50 years. Without dam breaching, the fish will not survive. Without salmon, critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, the only fish-eating orcas in the lower 48, will not survive.
In the next few months you have an excellent opportunity to prevent salmon and orca extinction, by negotiating a settlement in NWF v. NMFS that includes breaching the four lower Snake River dams, beginning this year. That case has been pending in Oregon District Court for more than two decades. Such a settlement would be difficult to appeal, and it would remove the political pressure on the Pacific Northwest congressional delegation that has made the issue intractable in the region.
Dam breaching is urgent. The fewest living Southern Resident orcas in decades struggle for survival, now just 74. They suffer from periodic starvation and reduced reproductive capacity because there are so few chinook salmon available to them. Chinook is 80% of their diet.
According to NOAA Fisheries, “[p]erhaps the single greatest change in food availability for resident killer whales since the late 1800s has been the decline of salmon from the Columbia River basin.” (NOAA SRKW Recovery Plan Recovery Plan for Southern Resident Killer Whales, (Orcinus orca), National Marine Fisheries Service, Northwest Region, Seattle, Washington (January 2008), p. II-82.) The Snake River is the Columbia River’s largest tributary and historically produced about 50% of the salmon originating in the Columbia Basin. The Snake’s watershed is the size of the state of Oregon.
Spring/chinook juvenile salmon that migrate from the Snake River tributaries have only a 14%-44% chance of making it to the ocean. The four lower Snake River dams are the largest source of mortality. A 2021 Nez Perce study shows that 77% of these chinook salmon stocks will be quasi-extinct by 2025. Quasi-extinct means less than 50 fish return to the spawning grounds of their natal river or stream.
To save the salmon, NOAA says that Lower Snake River dam breaching, along with other region-wide actions, must begin immediately. “Inaction will result in the catastrophic loss of the majority of Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead stocks.” (NOAA Fisheries, Draft—Rebuilding Interior Columbia Basin Salmon and Steelhead, July 11, 2022, p. 18.)
Tribal and non-tribal people are calling for breaching the four dams and know it is a necessary step to recover wild Snake River salmon and steelhead. Breaching will begin to uphold the nation’s obligations to indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. Breaching will help recover the critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, as well.
Please act so that the next seven generations can enjoy salmon and Southern Resident Killer Whales. Otherwise, their only option will be to read about them in history books.
This could be your Administration’s historic Pacific Northwest environmental legacy.