For Immediate Release:  Oct. 22, 2021


Justin Hayes, Executive Director, (208) 861-6134


BOISE Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) released a joint statement formally announcing a “federal-state process on salmon recovery in the Columbia River Basin and the Pacific Northwest.” The two leaders plan to spend the next several months determining how the services provided by the lower Snake River dams could be replaced. They expect to reach their conclusions and present recommendations by July 31, 2022. 

“The time is now for salmon, orca, and Tribal justice,” said Justin Hayes, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League. “Senator Murray’s short time frame recognizes that this situation is urgent. Preserving a place in WRDA to deauthorize the dams makes sense; using it to authorize another study does not.”

Within the joint statement, Sen. Murray proposed to potentially use the 2022 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) to authorize an “analysis of the four Lower Snake River dam projects that will evaluate the costs and impacts of breach alongside other options.” ICL urges Murray and Inslee’s effort to reach a decision on how to use federal funds to replace the dams’ services, and how to use federal legislation, like WRDA, to breach the dams, not to use their study to justify another study.

Hayes added, “We expect Senator Murray to be prepared to use WRDA to deauthorize the lower Snake River dams, not to create yet another study showing that dam breaching is possible and necessary to restore Snake River salmon and steelhead to abundance.”

The science is clear, lower Snake River dam removal must be part of any plan to restore salmon and steelhead to true abundance. Dam breaching has been studied many times by federal and non-federal experts, who have concluded that the services provided by these dams can be replaced. For decades the region has engaged in numerous collaboratives, all of which have failed to restore salmon. What’s needed is action. 

ICL is heartened to hear that Murray and Inslee will not start their work “from scratch.” We encourage them to use existing dam breaching studies and Congressman Mike Simpson’s (R-ID) Columbia Basin Initiative to act quickly and decisively. This announcement from Murray and Inslee comes on the heels of a statement from the Biden Administration promising a “fresh look” at the issue while active litigation is on pause