Snake River dams


Thanks for this important article on the shifting politics of the movement to breach the four Snake River dams in southeast Washington (“Courts can’t keep salmon from the edge of extinction,” HCN, 10/14/19). It needs to be added, however, that the court-mandated National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, review, a draft of which is expected in February 2020, will absolutely not recommend breaching the dams. As described by the Save Our wild Salmon coalition: “This process is being badly manipulated — with pre-determined outcomes, skewed analyses, and significantly limited opportunities for public input.” This has been confirmed in several ways: “(1.) NOAA spokesperson admits that FEIS outcomes have been determined. Aug. 20, 2019. (2.) Federal agencies’ announce deeply flawed EIS (environmental impact statement) alternatives, including a failure to address climate impacts or impacts on endangered orca. May 16, 2019. (3.) Council on Environmental Quality’s letter to members of Congress omits mention of salmon, emphasizes a ‘commitment to water infrastructure’. May 14, 2019. (4.) Trump administration directive to compress EIS timeline — Oct. 23, 2018. And (5.) the EIS will ignore the public’s support for protecting Snake River salmon and southern resident orcas from extinction.”

This is vitally important information for your readers and anyone interested in trying to protect and restore Snake River salmon and southern resident orcas from extinction.

But there is another way to get the dams breached. The Army Corps of Engineers has complete authority to breach the dams, without awaiting permission from Congress or any new EIS. The dams continue to be operated under the Army Corps’ 2002 EIS, by which the commanding general can, at any time, issue a record of decision to declare the dams nonoperational, (for operating at massive losses and not providing any irreplaceable services), and breach the earthen berms beside each dam, within months. The Army Corps is happy with the status quo, however, and needs to be told to breach the dams by the public and by an alliance of elected officials. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, is in a good position to help arrange such an alliance, but needs at least one courageous Washington official to join him. So our challenge is to convince at least one U.S. representative from Washington state, and/or our senators or governor, all of whom have so far remained silent, to contact Rep. Simpson to offer to help. Or let the Snake River salmon and southern resident orcas go extinct.

Howard Garrett
Freeland, Washington

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