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For Immediate Release: Thursday, August 25, 2022

Contacts: 

Mitch Cutter, Salmon & Steelhead Associate, (541) 280-8474  

Abby Urbanek, Communications Manager, (208) 345-6933 x 214

Washington leaders slowly move toward dam breaching, but more urgency is needed to save salmon, recover orcas, and deliver Tribal justice

BOISE, ID – Today, Washington Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee released their final report and recommendations on replacing the services of the lower Snake River dams. The report was released as a draft in June and finalized based on comments from regional stakeholders. 

The recommendations state “the federal and state governments should move forward with a program to replace the benefits provided by the Lower Snake River Dams…so that breaching of the [dams] is a pathway that can be credibly considered by policymakers in the future.” Murray and Inslee committed themselves to a set of actions that will forestall extinction and prepare the region for dam breaching. 

“Senator Murray and Governor Inslee have laid out what is necessary for river restoration,” said ICL’s Salmon & Steelhead Associate Mitch Cutter. “We agree that the dams’ most important services can and must be replaced, but time is of the essence. If we actually want to restore salmon and steelhead, Murray and Inslee must establish a concrete timeline for completing necessary studies and infrastructure improvements, deauthorizing the dams, and restoring the lower Snake River.”

The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) is encouraged by Murray and Inslee’s recognition that extinction of salmon, orca, and other iconic species of the Pacific Northwest is unacceptable, that breaching the dams would provide the greatest benefit to salmon, and that the dams’ impact on fish has inordinately harmed indigenous Tribes. However, the recommendations lack urgency. 

ICL believes dam breaching is both possible and essential before the end of the decade, if elected officials work quickly. This timeline parallels Congressman Mike Simpson’s Columbia Basin Initiative. ICL calls on Murray, Inslee, and other leaders to work with Simpson on a legislative package that funds necessary studies and infrastructure projects, makes system changes to prevent extinction in the short term, and restores the lower Snake River via dam breaching by 2030. 

“Across the Northwest, people are recognizing that the status quo is unsustainable, irresponsible, and unjust. It’s time to act and deliver a future that makes all communities whole, including those who’ve been left behind for far too long,” concluded Cutter. 

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