Letter: Breaching dam is best solution for killer whales

Editor,

“Urgent warning: Elected officials, if breaching does not begin this winter, you are killing the last hope for southern resident killer whales and our fisheries,” reported the Center for Whale Research in December 2018.

And, actually a lot more.

The equation is simple. Without breaching the four Lower Snake River, dams the Puget Sound’s orca, aka southern resident killer whales, and the salmon that use that river are doomed to extinction.

That’s the opinion of 34 fisheries scientists. There are 5,500 miles of climate change resistant, salmon spawning streams blocked by these purposeless and costly dams.

The Army Corps of Engineers’ own assessment is that breaching is the best solution. The dams exist primarily to make Lewiston, Idaho a seaport so private grain growers can use barges instead of trains, which taxpayers subsidize. The dams are a proven liability for the Bonneville Power Administration, costing it millions of dollars per year. They produce electricity at the time of year it is not needed.

BPA will spend an estimated $1 billion to maintain these obsolete structures.

The Corps spent millions on ineffectual, energy intensive salmon strategies. The dams don’t have to be dismantled, a simple rerouting of the river at a cost of only $2-3 million per dam, which could be done in two to three months, will suffice.

The governor’s $1.1 billion dollar plan will be a waste of money.

Why? The Chinook that use the Snake/Columbia River system feed the killer whales in the winter off the coast. Banning tour boats and improving water quality in the Puget Sound will have no effect.

We don’t need more studies. Chinook returns have been diminishing dramatically every year. This is a taxpayer/rate payer rip-off and a racial injustice as well. These dams came at severe cost to tribes, like the Nez Perce, whose lives have been dependent on salmon for millennia.

Ultimately, the Army Corps and BPA will be responsible for the extinction of these species unless a massive upwelling of public sentiment and our federal officials can encourage them to act. Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite must issue a “Record of Decision” to direct the Walla Walla District of the Corps of Engineers to select Alternative #4 of its 2002 Environmental Impact Statement.

Please contact the BPA at 800-622-4519, The Army Corps at 202-761-7690, Gov. Jay Inslee at 360-902-4111, senators Murray, 206-553-5545, and Cantwell, 206-220-6400, and demand the dams be breached. With your help we can “Free the Snake.”

Gary Piazzon

Coupeville

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