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Two recent stories by reporter Lynda Mapes provide an important contrast when it comes to restoring Pacific Northwest salmon.

Her story about the triumphant return of salmon to the Elwha shows that if you give the fish half a chance, they’ll come back [“More Elwha fish find way to dam-free upper watershed,” seattletimes.com, Oct. 17]. Her second piece spotlights a rare opportunity to put the lesson of dam removal to work for salmon in the Snake River [“Environmental effects of Columbia, Snake river dams scrutinized,” seattletimes.com, Oct. 17]. With the first hearing next week in Wenatchee, federal agencies will seek public input on how best to restore these iconic fish.

We’ve witnessed the decline of salmon for decades, but federal agencies have turned a blind eye. Since the 1990s, scientists have informed the agencies that removing four costly dams on the Lower Snake River is the best way to bring salmon back, opening up access to cold, high-elevation, pristine Idaho stream habitat.

The salmon’s survival is intrinsically linked with the health of southern-resident killer whales, annual fixtures circling the mouth of the Columbia River when there’s chinook salmon to be had. Like the fish they depend on, these storied creatures are also on the brink; recovering salmon is vital to recovering our orcas.

Let’s look to the lesson of Elwha and free the Snake.

Steve Mashuda, Seattle, attorney at Earthjustice