Clean Water Act Snake River Snake River dams

TU’s Wood Gives Testimony on Lower Snake River Dams

During a virtual federal listening session on the Columbia River Basin, people from across the country called on the Biden Administration to move forward with the removal of the lower Snake River dams.

Nearly 60 people testified during the listening session, with more than two-thirds or participants calling on the administration to take action on dam removal.  

The listening session was the final of three sessions held by the Biden Administration to hear public input on the four lower Snake River dams, which are having disastrous impacts on wild salmon and steelhead in the Snake basin.  

The administration is still accepting written comments on Snake River dams via the Federal register’s input portal.

Trout Unlimited CEO Chris Wood testified during the public hearing. 

My name is Chris Wood, and I am speaking on behalf of our 350,000 members and supporters across the country. TU has a long history of collaborative stewardship where we work with communities to apply common sense to common problems for the common good.

We appreciate the administration taking the time to listen to people and to deliver solutions that are good for Northwest communities and good for salmon and steelhead.   

Wild Snake River salmon and steelhead are hanging on by a thread. In the 1950s, before the four lower Snake River dams were constructed, there was a two-month long fishing season on the Middle Fork of the Snake where you could take up to two fish per day. Today, we are down to 1-2 percent of their historic population sizes.   

We know from the work of Congressman Simpson and Governor Inslee and Senator Murray, that we can meet  the energy, irrigation, transportation, and irrigation needs of those who rely on the dams. We also know just as certainly that the failure to remove the four lower Snake River dams will lead to the extinction of Snake salmon and steelhead. We urge the administration think bigger and do better. 

We cannot simply double down on the status quo while the most important salmon migration in the lower 48 circles the drain of extinction. We can do better. We know how to replace the services of the lower four dams with modern, improved infrastructure.  To those who think otherwise, let’s at least have the conversation. Let’s look for solutions that lift all the boats while simultaneously recovering the salmon.   

Salmon that pass three dams in the John Day basin are sustainable. Salmon that pass four dams in the Yakima are sustainable. The salmon that must pass eight dams in the Snake are on the path to extinction. We know how to fix the problem. We know how to work together to replace all the social and economic benefits of the dams. We have just seen a massive infusion of restoration and stimulus funding in the form of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.   

Let’s figure out how to use some of those resources to make sure that those who rely on the benefits of the dams are not left behind. Let’s work together and identify how to replace the power, the irrigation, and the transportation benefits of the dams. Let’s honor the treaty rights of the tribes and recover their most culturally significant resources. 

The lower four dams are an anchor to the past. They ensure the destruction of a species that defines the character of the Northwest. Let’s not be the generation that allowed a failure of imagination to lead to the loss of wild salmon and steelhead in the Snake River Basin.