Murray-Inslee report forges brighter future for Pacific Northwest 



Greg McReynolds, Intermountain West ACP Director, Trout Unlimited,

Chris Wood, CEO and president, Trout Unlimited, 

Zoe Bommarito, Mountain West Communications Director, Trout Unlimited,, 406-437-3832

Taking a bold step toward recovering the most important run of salmon and steelhead in the Lower 48, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released a draft report finding that significant agricultural, energy, and irrigation services provided by the lower four Snake River dams can be replaced. Additionally, the report cites “scientific models that show “breaching the lower Snake River dams would significantly improve passage for salmon, steelhead, and lamprey.” 

The Snake River has, by far, the greatest potential for wild fish recovery of any watershed in the Columbia Basin. Historically it produced half of the spring/summer Chinook salmon and summer steelhead in the Columbia system. 

Since the completion of the four lower Snake dams in 1975, the river’s salmon and steelhead populations have declined by more than 90 percent – impacting tribes, anglers, businesses, and communities across the region. Decades of science from state and federal wildlife agencies, tribes, and partners, demonstrates that removing the four lower Snake River dams is the only way to restore abundant, fishable populations of wild salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest. 

In addition to wildlife concerns, the dams are aging and becoming increasingly inefficient. Pacific Northwest communities are looking for state and federal leadership to make robust infrastructure investments in the region. 

With their report, Senator Murray and Governor Inslee, following on the heels of Idaho Congressmen Mike Simpson (R-ID), provide a vision of abundant fish returns, community resilience, and economic development in the Pacific Northwest. The analysis clearly identifies the steps required to replace the services of the lower four dams and move the region toward a clean energy future that supports tribes, fish, and local economies. The report: 

  • Demonstrates that “with advance planning and investment, the services the LSRD provide could be fully or partially maintained for multiple industries and sectors, and negative impacts of dam breaching could be mitigated.” 
  • States that “change in the Lower Snake River and Columbia River System is inevitable,” and cites changes in cost, operation, environmental factors, and a rapidly changing hydropower system will cause the basin to undergo extensive transitions. 
  • Estimates that replacing the services provided by the dams could range in cost from $10.3 billion to $27.2 billion. 
  • Acknowledges that Congressional authorization and action would be needed for the Army Corps to pursue breaching the dams. 

Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited, celebrated the progress made by this Murray/Inslee process: “Restoring a free-flowing Snake River will be the most significant salmon recovery action of our lifetimes. Thank you, Senator Murray, and Governor Inslee, for illuminating the path to a brighter future for people and salmon. The report confirms that the dams’ services can be provided in alternative ways. Now it is time to invest in those alternatives and restore a free-flowing lower Snake River before it is too late.” 

Helen Neville, Senior Scientist at Trout Unlimited: “We can rebuild abundant, fishable runs of salmon and steelhead in the Snake basin, but only if we restore a free-flowing river. Since completion of the four lower Snake River dams, Snake River populations have declined dramatically and the incredible fisheries that existed prior to their construction have all but vanished. The fact that wild salmon and steelhead on the Yakima and John Day rivers survive at much higher rates than Snake River fish after passing four and three dams, respectively, shows that Snake River fish can rebuild if we restore a free-flowing lower Snake River and unlock the largest wild salmon refuge in the lower 48.”

The draft report will be available for public review from June 9, 2022, through July 11, 2022. Comments on the draft report can be provided via email, through the project website or by mail. All comments must be submitted by 5 p.m., PST, on July 11, 2022. Access the full report at  

Restoration is possible, but only if we act now. While the report identifies sustainable and reasonable solutions for replacement of dam services, Congressional leadership and the Biden Administration must take urgent steps to restore a free-flowing Snake River, and in turn support our Pacific Northwest communities and honor tribal commitments.  

Learn more at 


Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to caring for and recovering America’s rivers and streams so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon. Across the country, TU brings to bear local, regional and national grassroots organizing, durable partnerships, science-backed policy muscle, and legal firepower on behalf of trout and salmon fisheries, healthy waters and vibrant communities.