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Senator Murray and Governor Inslee to Produce Snake River Restoration Plan

Big News: Senator Murray and Governor Inslee to Produce Snake River Restoration Plan

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The Northwest faces a stark choice: Do we allow salmon to fade to extinction while cooking in stagnant reservoirs, or do we breach the Lower Snake River dams to save the salmon and build back truly clean energy? Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee’s public commitment to developing a plan for Snake River restoration is a reason for hope. Please contact Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee today to support their leadership.

Sen. Murray and Gov. Inlee’s announcement comes on the heels of the news that we have temporarily paused the long-running litigation on Columbia and Snake river dams to develop robust solutions. The State of Oregon, Nez Perce Tribe, and fishing and conservation groups (including Columbia Riverkeeper), represented by Earthjustice, agreed with the Biden Administration to pause the case on October 21, 2021. 

Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland noted that we have the “opportunity to prioritize the resolution of more than 20 years of litigation and identify creative solutions that improve conditions for salmon for years to come. While it is important to balance the region’s economy and power generation, it is also time to improve conditions for Tribes that have relied on these important species since time immemorial.” We must continue to push the federal government, but it is certainly refreshing to see the Secretary of Interior talking about solutions to help Snake River salmon.

What does all this mean?

After years of litigation and pressuring state and federal leaders to save Snake River salmon from extinction, we see a light at the end of the tunnel. We see hope. We see state and federal leaders approaching the problem with an open mind and a commitment to develop solutions. The science is clear that we must breach the lower Snake River dams. We are hopeful that our elected officials—from Gov. Inslee to members of Congress to the Biden Administration—understand what is at stake and will work with Pacific Northwest communities and Tribal Nations to save the salmon.  

Please take action today to tell Gov. Inslee and Sen. Murray that you support breaching the lower Snake River dams to restore salmon!


Northwest groups respond to Sen. Murray’s and Gov. Inslee's salmon and Snake River action plan 

October 22, 2021 (Seattle, Wash.)—Today, Washington Sen. Patty Murray announced she and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will deliver details by July 31 on how to replace the services of the four lower Snake River dams, if those dams are breached to prevent salmon extinction. 

That leaves 282 days to develop an action plan for a comprehensive solution to prevent extinction, honor tribal rights and treaties, and support communities that use the dams’ services. A solution must be presented in time for Congress to pass necessary legislation and appropriations to implement it. 

The Northwest groups welcomed Sen. Murray’s and Gov. Inslee’s leadership— specifically their emphasis on tribal advisement and their decision not to begin this work from square one. The groups said they looked forward to working with the Senator, Governor, and the Biden Administration, and pledged to hold all accountable for delivering their action plan by the July deadline.

An action plan cannot wait. Salmon, the orca that eat them, and tribes and communities that depend on them cannot wait. Salmon and steelhead populations have been decimated and are continuing decades-long declines. The science on preventing extinction is clear. Salmon and steelhead need free-flowing, cold water, which requires removal of the four lower Snake River dams. 

recent poll showed that widespread majorities of voters in the state support a plan to remove dams on the Snake River to prevent salmon extinction, along with accompanying investment in agriculture, energy, and transportation.

Organizations across the region released the following statements:

We face a stark choice. Do we allow salmon to fade to extinction while cooking in stagnant reservoirs or do we breach the Snake River dams to save the salmon and build truly clean energy? I'm hopeful Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee will make the right choice. 

"The region has abundant renewable energy, and customer side resources—including energy efficiency and storage—as evidenced by the response to utility requests for clean energy. Never before have new clean and renewable energy resources been available at our fingertips as they are today. We’re confident that the energy services provided by the lower Snake hydro-projects can be reliably and affordably replaced with effective planning. This announcement launches a significant initiative to identify energy solutions and options for salmon recovery." -Nancy Hirsh, Executive Director, NW Energy Coalition

"The loss of salmon is an existential threat to Native Nations, fishers, business owners, economies and communities. Salmon is a critical part of life for people across the state and their survival is directly connected to the survival of the beloved orcas. We must take decisive action immediately to prevent extinction, including removal of dams on the lower Snake River and replacement of their benefits. We welcome Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee for tackling this monumental challenge. " -Alyssa Macy, CEO, Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters

"Extinction is staring us in the face. It’s now or never for meaningful action to recover the Columbia and Snake basin’s iconic wild salmon and steelhead runs and invest in the region’s future. We welcome Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee’s statements and we urge them and all Northwest leaders to go further. We must heed the calls of Northwest Tribes for immediate investment and action toward a comprehensive solution that includes restoring a free-flowing lower Snake River. Anything short of that fails Tribes, salmon-dependent communities and economies, and this river that is the lifeblood of our region." -Wendy McDermott, Puget Sound-Columbia Basin Director, American Rivers

"The pressure on the Snake River dams just hit an all-time high. Gov. Inslee and Sen. Murray have joined forces to take a serious run at replacing the dams’ services. This is a giant step forward for the Tribes that have kept the fish on life support all these years and for all of us who care deeply about justice and living in a rich and climate-resilient Northwest. -Giulia Good Stefani, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

"The time is now for salmon, orca, and Tribal justice. Sen. Murray's short time frame recognizes that this situation is urgent and the time to act is now. Preserving a place in the Water Resources Development Act to deauthorize the dams makes sense, endless study does not. -Justin Hayes, Executive Director, Idaho Conservation League 

"We are excited by the commitments made by Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee. However in their statement, they referenced a potential opportunity to breach the Lower Snake Dams. This is not a potential opportunity but a necessary action to recover salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River basin. -Chris Hager, Executive Director, Association of NW Steelheaders 

"Momentum is building toward the inevitable conclusion that there is no way to recover Snake River salmon and steelhead without removing the four lower dams. We welcome the engagement of Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee to help recover salmon and steelhead. Scientists have made it clear that without a free-flowing Snake, these salmon face imminent extinction. Happily, Congressman Mike Simpson has shown that there is a path forward. Building on his groundbreaking work, we can remove these dams, recover salmon populations, make good on our promises to Tribes, and build a stronger economy for the region’s communities." -Chris Wood, President and CEO, Trout Unlimited

The Sierra Club applauds the leadership of Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee. They have stepped forward with a commitment for urgent action to recover endangered salmon, steelhead and salmon-dependent Southern Resident orcas, and the communities and Tribes that cherish and depend on them. A cornerstone of any solution that is effective, legal and respects tribal treaty rights must be restoration of a free-flowing lower Snake River by breaching four lethal dams that are driving our fish and orcas to extinction. Rep. Mike Simpson’s framework has transformed the regional conversation and provides a road map forward. Leadership from Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee is key to advancing and securing a solution that works for all. We call on all Northwest members of Congress, and the Biden administration, to advance their initiative and, working with the Northwest tribes, develop a plan and legislation that can be enacted by mid-2022. -Bill Arthur, Director, Snake/Columbia River Salmon Campaign, Sierra Club 

"Conservation and fishing advocates are encouraged by today's statement from Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee—and their commitment to work urgently to develop a comprehensive plan to protect Snake River salmon and steelhead and meet critical needs of Northwest communities. We’re ready to support and participate in this process. We have very little time to act. This year’s salmon returns to the Snake River are some of the lowest on record. Fishing opportunities are being reduced and closed. Restoring the lower Snake River and its fish is not only critical for avoiding extinction, it also represents one of our nation’s great restoration opportunities today. We call on Congress, the Biden Administration and regional stakeholders to work urgently with Northwest tribes to develop a plan that restores the lower Snake River, upholds our nation’s promises and invests in our communities and infrastructure." -Joseph Bogaard, Executive Director, Save Our wild Salmon Coalition

"After two decades of steep declines in endangered salmon and orca, we’re encouraged to see Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee putting lower Snake River dam breaching squarely on the table. The science is clear that the incredible southern resident orcas and the salmon they rely on will not recover without breaching all four dams on the lower Snake River. The heat waves the Pacific Northwest experienced this summer are still impacting salmon and orca—we have no time to waste. Therefore, Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee must be focused on developing an action plan to breach the lower Snake River dams that is implementable as soon as possible. Salmon and southern resident orcas are running out of time." -Chris Connolly, Pacific Northwest Field Representative, Endangered Species Coalition

"Breaching the four lower Snake River dams is the most effective solution we can choose to save salmon and, in turn, the southern resident orca, from this impending extinction crisis. We applaud Gov. Inslee and Sen. Murray for their leadership and urge them to move as quickly and ambitiously as possible. We are running out of time." -Mandy Apa, Conservation Associate, Environment Washington