U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite
Gen. D. Peter Helmlinger
Choose one or two to make your POINT
• Breaching the dams offers the best opportunity to recover Snake River wild salmon. (Authority, if asked: The 2002 EIS under which the four Snake River dams currently are operated, Executive Summary, p. 25, http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/portals/28/docs/environmental/lsrstudy/Summary.pdf.)
• If the Army Corps of Engineers does not begin dam breaching in the next five months, it likely will be too late for Southern Resident orcas, since it will take a few years to recover the Snake River salmon, after the dams are breached. Without a significantly increased run of Chinook salmon from the Columbia Basin, only a remnant population of orcas will remain, and they will die out over the next several decades.
• There is neither enough time nor a need for more studies of orcas or salmon before breaching begins. We know salmon need a free flowing Snake River and orcas need food.
• This is the best opportunity to:
• Stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars each year in futile fish recovery efforts in the Snake River Basin.
• Cool the lower Snake River to its natural free-flowing regime.
• Save keystone salmon species.
• Recover the largest historical source of prey for the Pacific Northwest’s endangered orca whales, listed by NOAA in 2015 as one of the eight species most in danger of going extinct in the near future if action is not taken immediately.
• Create the largest watershed restoration in North America, an incredible environmental legacy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why were these dams built?
They were built to create an inland port for shipping grain by barge. Most farmers now ship by more flexible rail, at a lower rate.
Won’t irrigation go away?
Only one dam, Ice Harbor, is used for incidental irrigation. Irrigation pipes can be extended to the river to continue irrigation, at a far lower price tag than the annual cost of the dams.
Don’t we need the power they generate?
No, the extra power is not needed because the regional power grid currently produces a 16% annual surplus. If more power is needed, it can be replaced by wind power, a greener option.
Do we need the dams for flood control?
No, Congress did not authorize flood control as a purpose and the dams were not designed for it. The four Snake dams are run-of-the river dams, meaning the same amount of water flows out as in. The dams were not built to store water. Lower Granite dam actually creates a flood risk to Lewiston due to sediment build up.
What is the impact when the reservoirs are gone?
Before the dams were constructed, people gathered on the river’s banks to fish, camp, hunt and raft on rapids through picturesque canyons. Breaching would create 140 miles of fall Chinook salmon spawning habitat, and expose 8,000 acres of fertile land for agriculture. This land could be returned to the state of Washington, which could lease the land out for high end vineyards, orchards, and other uses to help fund school budgets.
What will it cost to breach the dams?
The cost is about $340 million, which would be paid or repaid by the Bonneville Power Administration– not Washington State.
What does it mean to “breach the dams”?
Breaching means to take earth-moving equipment – bulldozers – and remove part of the earthen berm adjacent to the concrete structures. This will allow the river to begin flowing freely again. Breaching is not complicated! The concrete structures can remain in place.
Who would do this work?
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has had a breaching plan in place for more than 16 years. It can be activated in a matter of months and breaching can begin. Work must begin on the first dam in December to save the endangered wild salmon runs and provide a fighting chance for the Southern Resident Orcas to survive.