Remove dams to save salmon, orca

Capitalism frequently grapples with saving money over saving nature, but what if one choice could be fiscally and environmentally responsible? Our region faces such a solution.

The Snake River, which confluences into the Columbia, boasts fifteen dams providing largely hydroelectric uses. The four lower Snake River dams, however, prevent endangered chinook salmon from reaching critical spawning grounds. High temperatures the last two years have obliterated lower river basin spawning habitat and, thus, chinook returns have hit unprecedented lows.

Experts predict Columbia chinook extinction by 2018. Commercial fishing will likely fall into major decline. Regarding eco-tourism, our endangered Southern resident orca population relies primarily on Columbia basin chinook for food. Since their Endangered Species Act listing in 2005, over forty individuals have died due to conditions they may have survived had there been an adequate supply of salmon. Their extinction would equal nearly $34 million in lost annual revenue.

Furthermore, we are in a power surplus wherein removing the four lower dams would not cause power deficits. However, their continued upkeep wastes taxpayer money as the return is only 15 cents on every dollar spent. So, are we willing to suffer the economic and environmental repercussions that come with doing nothing?

Ariel Marie Yseth


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