Whidbey’s Orca Network takes up gauntlet against dams

Orca Network presents an evening about the amazing life and history of salmon, and the effect of dams on endangered salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest - salmon runs endangered Southern Resident orcas depend upon for survival.

Join Orca Network Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. at the Coupeville Recreation Hall for a presentation, book reading and discussion with Steven Hawley, author of “Recovering a Lost River,” which presents a powerful argument for why dam removal makes good scientific, economic and environmental sense.

Teaming up with Hawley will be Idaho river guide and filmmaker Jim Norton, showing his documentary “Running the Gauntlet,” recently featured on PBS. The film takes a look at the Columbia River Basin, once teeming with young salmon heading toward the ocean and mature salmon returning to their home rivers and streams to spawn.

“Now, many salmon species of the Pacific Northwest are extinct, including Chinook salmon which make up 80 percent of the Southern Resident orcas’ diet, and thirteen salmon species are currently endangered,” said Howard Garrett of Greenbank, a founder of the Orca Network.

Hawley, journalist and self-proclaimed “river rat,” argues that the best hope for the Snake River lies in dam removal, a solution that pits the power authorities and Army Corps of Engineers against a collection of Indian tribes, farmers, fishermen and river recreationists. The river’s health, as he demonstrates, is closely connected to local economies, fresh water rights, energy independence - and even the health of orca whales in Puget Sound.

In the Pacific Northwest, the Snake River and its wilderness tributaries were the world’s greatest salmon river system. As recently as a half century ago, they retained some of their historic bounty, with millions of fish returning to spawn. Now the salmon population has dropped close to extinction. The main culprit: Over 400 dams now block salmon migration, including eight gargantuan federal dams on the mainstem Columbia and Snake rivers. Efforts at salmon recovery through fish ladders, hatcheries and even trucking them over the dams have failed.

The event is free of charge, however donations to Orca Network to cover facility costs. Copies of “Recovering a Lost River” will be on sale at the event, along with Howard Garrett’s new book, “Orcas in Our Midst Vol. 3 - Residents and Transients - How did that happen?” For more information, go to or contact Orca Network at or 678-3451.


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