No Surprises in Draft Report on Lower Snake River Dams

15th of Jun 2022

By Nicola Myers

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and Senator Patty Murray recently released their draft report on replacing services provided by the Lower Snake River Dams. The public is welcome to provide feedback on the report through July 11, 2022 at 5pm PST. A final report will be published later this summer. 

The report provides a cost-benefit analysis for replacing the dams’ services. Yet, the underlying message is clear: Dam removal would significantly improve fish populations. Constructed in the 1960s and ‘70s, the four dams (Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite) are located in southeastern Washington, where the Snake River flows through the state. The dams provide communities in the Pacific Northwest with power and transportation amongst other services, but they have greatly harmed the salmon species that use the Snake River by obstructing their journey to and from the Pacific Ocean and by limiting their ability to spawn.

In fact, the report notes that “all species of salmon that use the Snake River are currently listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.” As salmon populations dwindle, tribal nations in the Pacific Northwest struggle to fish, hunt, harvest goods, and practice religious and cultural customs. The draft report further discusses how the wellbeing of salmon is linked to the wellbeing of tribal communities, who have been consulted in the process of developing the report. 

The report notes that the services provided by the dams can be replaced through investments in  transportation, irrigation, energy, tourism, and recreation. Viable alternatives and approximate costs are detailed for each of the affected services, as are the benefits for re-establishing a healthy river and ecosystem should the dams be breached. This report does not support or oppose breaching the dams. However, it remains evident that the survival of the salmon depends on removal of the dams. 

Nicola Myers is a summer 2022 intern at Advocates for the West. A graduate of Boise High School, Nicola is preparing to enter her first year at Whitman College.