Join us in calling on President Obama to crack down on deadbeat dams, beginning with four especially harmful, federally operated dams on the lower Snake River in Southeastern Washington: Ice Harbor Dam, Lower Monumental Dam, Little Goose Dam and Lower Granite Dam.
The Snake River once produced half the salmon in the Columbia Basin – now, every Snake River salmon stock is on the Endangered Species list or extinct.
We have an historic opportunity to restore wild salmon and steelhead to self-sustaining numbers in more than 6,000 miles of river habitat.
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This petition was created in conjunction with the documentary film DamNation, and supporting partners Patagonia and Save Our Wild Salmon. Please visit DamNationFilm.com to learn more.
Since its founding, our nation has built the equivalent of a dam a day, for a total that now exceeds 75,000. Many of these dams have become obsolete, providing minimal value and costing millions in upkeep yet doing sustained harm to public safety, ecosystem health, fisheries and tribal culture.
Communities in nearly every state are choosing to remove high-cost, low-value dams to restore rivers, recover fish stocks, revitalize waterfronts, improve quality of life, and render watersheds more resilient to climate change.
The Columbia-Snake river system in the Pacific Northwest provides a great opportunity for action. Abundant wild salmon and steelhead once supported tribes, fishing communities and ecosystems, with up to 30 million wild fish entering the mouth of the Columbia River every year. Now a fraction return, decimated by a gauntlet of dams that kill most of the salmon migrating through them.
The worst offenders are on the lower Snake River in southeastern Washington. These four dams – Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite – degrade water quality, harbor nonnative species, and impede salmon migration to and from their spawning grounds, which happen to be the healthiest salmon habitat remaining in the lower 48 states. The Snake River once produced half the salmon in the Columbia Basin; now every Snake River salmon stock is on the Endangered Species list or extinct.
These four obsolete federal dams cost taxpayers millions of dollars every year while providing no flood control and little irrigation. The small barge-transportation system they enable does not support itself and is in steep decline as users shift to the available rail system. Continuing to modernize this existing railroad and other improvements can provide far more efficient transportation for farmers and other shippers.
Removing these dams would save the millions of taxpayer and utility-ratepayer dollars now spent on their operation and maintenance. It is the surest means of restoring wild salmon and steelhead to self-sustaining numbers in more than 6,000 miles of river habitat. Current salmon mitigation efforts have cost more than $13 billion over the past two decades but have failed to produce recovery.
Snake River dam removal would benefit fishing and recreational businesses, create jobs in revitalized river communities and enhance overall ecosystem health. Improved energy efficiency and affordable clean renewables are already meeting nearly all new electricity needs in the Northwest, and investments in both can replace these dams’ sporadic hydropower production while reducing regional carbon emissions and improving water quality.
Diverse interests across the country have come together to remove obsolete dams and find more cost-effective options for power, shipping, irrigation and other needs. Success stories include the Elwha and White Salmon Rivers in Washington, the famed Rogue River of Oregon and the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers in Maine.
Now is the time for action on the Snake. Under your leadership, farmers, fishermen, energy producers and others can forge common solutions to restore wild salmon and benefit all stakeholders throughout the region while lightening the taxpayer burden. As a first step, I urge your administration to authorize economic and feasibility studies on removing these high-cost, low-value dams. Thank you for your help.
Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, Acting Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator
Samuel D. Rauch III, Acting Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries
Lieutenant General Thomas P. Bostick, U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Governor Jay Inslee, Washington
Governor John Kitzhaber, Oregon
U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Washington
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Washington
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, Oregon
U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson, Idaho