Demolish these dams now to keep salmon from going extinct

Demolish these dams now to keep salmon from going extinct

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Srijan V started this petition to CEO of Bonneville Power Administration John Hairston and

My name is Srijan and I am a high school student from Philadelphia. I believe that the federal government has stalled on this issue for too long even when the path to saving salmon is clear.

Pacific Northwest salmon are born in cold ponds high in the mountains. Their parents die by the end of the spawning season, and the young salmon travel downstream to the ocean. They spend about 3-4 years in the ocean before traveling back upstream to where they were born to lay their eggs.

In the last two decades, 35% of the salmon running up the Lower Snake River (in Washington State) to their spawning grounds were killed because of four dams built in the 1950s and 60s - Ice Harbor, Little Goose, Lower Monumental, and Lower Granite. We need to demolish these dams now if we want to keep salmon from going extinct. If we fail, there will be many environmental and economic problems, and ultimately, taxpayers will be paying the price.

What are the problems caused by the dams?

The loss of this iconic fish would have widespread repercussions. Over 130 different species depend on salmon for food, out of which many, including orcas, are now critically endangered. Salmon is responsible for 16,000 jobs in the fishing industry, and tourism has slowed down after disappointing fishing seasons. The United States also promised in an 1855 treaty with Native American tribes that it would keep salmon running plentifully in the rivers, yet 14 species of salmon and steelhead are now endangered, and many have gone extinct. If we keep losing salmon, US taxpayers will have to pay billions of dollars to Canada and Native American tribes as compensation.

Not only do the dams provide obstacles for the salmon, but they also slow down water flow, which makes young salmon more susceptible to predators, and lower the amount of food in the water. Rather than removing these dams, the US government has spent $15 billion of taxpayer money on band-aid fixes like hauling salmon in trucks and establishing NOAA breeding grounds to release more salmon into the river, yet we haven’t seen results. These strategies have lowered biodiversity, making the salmon more susceptible to rising water temperatures and infectious diseases. The government has even acknowledged in a court case that getting rid of the dams is the only reliable path to salmon recovery.

We have past evidence that the fish can bounce back. When the dams on the Elwha River in Washington State were removed in 2012, the summer steelhead salmon was considered extinct. But in 2019, there were over 340 due to natural evolution from rainbow trout. From 2008 to 2019, the number of rainbow trout increased from 3,218 to 24,896. Other fish, like chinook salmon and bull trout, also made significant comebacks. 

The solution

What about the hydroelectric energy that the dams provide, which powers much of the nearby area? It won't be that difficult to replace this energy. The Pacific Northwest already produces 2.5 times as much renewable energy as the total energy from the dams. It would only cost Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the company responsible for the energy produced by the dams, 3% of their annual budget to replace them with carbon-free wind and solar energy that can be used for years to come. 

The path is clear. Sign this petition to convince the federal government and Army Corps of Engineers to work with BPA and replace the dams with salmon-friendly renewable energy. 

*Photo taken from The Good Men Project

 

Questions and Answers

Q: Why do we need to get rid of the dams altogether? Wouldn't it be easier to install more fish ladders or motion-detecting gates?

A: The dams cause more problems than just blocking fish passage. The huge reservoirs formed by the dams slow down water flow, making it easier for predators to catch salmon and lowering the fishes' chance of giving birth to the next generation. The large reservoirs also catch more of the sun's rays than a flowing river would, heating up the water to temperatures that salmon can't handle. Not to mention that very few salmon would find the small areas to access the fish ladders.

Q: Farmers use barges to transport nearly 40% of America's wheat along the Lower Snake River. Won't removing the dams cause economic problems?

A: Although this might look like a major problem, there is a solution. There are many old railroad lines near the Lower Snake River that were used in the mid-1900s but are currently unused. With a small investment, if the US government restores these rail lines, farmers will be able to ship their goods to many more locations than they can now, and many small communities in the Pacific Northwest will be revitalized.

Q: How much would homeowners have to pay to replace the dams' hydroelectricity with renewables?

A: Next to nothing. Pacific Northwest homeowners would only have to pay about $1 more each month to make this plan work. This is insignificant compared to the billions of dollars of compensation they would have to pay if salmon went extinct. 

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,000!
At 1,000 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!