An attorney for two groups seeking to save the Orca whales in the Pacific Northwest from starvation and the native Chinook salmon from extinction on the Snake River recently wrote a letter to federal officials in the Biden administration. Please talk to us, she writes. You can come to us or we’ll travel to Washington to see you.
Sharon Grace, attorney with DamTRUTH and Southern Resident Killer Whale Chinook Salmon Initiative, included the secretaries of the interior, energy, commerce and army in the letterhead. She sent the message by e-mail and U.S. Postal Service.
Whichever way they got it, the message was the same: “The dams (four on the lower Snake) have outlived their usefulness. To avoid extinction, Snake River salmon need a free-flowing river. A national solution is needed. We call on you to craft this solution and begin breaching the dams this year.”
That request is an old one, known for decades, as is the damage to the native salmon. Some studies predict the near extinction of native-fish runs by 2025 and others push the date out to 2060.
In her letter, Atty. Grace offers some newer data, harder figures and better science on matters other than salmon. The reservoirs behind the four lower Snake River dams are “methane factories,” she writes, throwing off the equivalent to 86,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide produced by a mid-size, natural-gas fired generating plant.
The letter to the feds also notes that the dams “have flooded miles and miles of riparian areas and wetlands, resulting in the destruction of huge carbon sinks that formerly sequestered and stored greenhouse gases.”
Then Atty. Grace deals with the cost of electricity produced by the dams in question. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has long claimed they are needed to supply the Northwest with cheaper electricity. That’s not the case, Grace claims.
“BPA can no longer sell hydropower at competitive prices,” according to the letter. “Since 2009, BPA has raised its contracted customers’ power prices by 30 percent and avoided even greater increases by blowing through at least $900 million in financial reserves.” While the dams aren’t making money, the power they produce may not be needed.
More than half of the hydropower produced by the lower four dams comes during the spring runoff from March through June. DamTRUTH supporters contend the Pacific Northwest is “awash in surplus energy” during this period and that has reduced its price in the open market and created problems for BPA.
It’s time for the Biden Administration to take notice, step up and move in. A national solution is needed after years of foot-dragging by the states. And Atty. Grace says there’s still time “to recover the once-bountiful Snake River salmon and steelhead runs and to create a solution that makes tribes, farmers, fishers and irrigators economically whole.”
DamTRUTH is asking the feds to put the pieces together THIS year. Heed our cry. Do it now. And in 10 years, we just might see a significant run of native salmon and steelhead in the river brought back to life. As far as the lower Snake River is concerned, Biden’s plan to “Build Back Better” could begin with “Take Them Down.”