Gov. Jay Inslee’s office has released a draft report on the power-generating Lower Snake River dams that some propose should be breached or removed to aid declining salmon and ailing orca whales.
The report, which represents the views of a diverse range of stakeholders on the controversial dams, does not offer a recommendation; instead, it summarizes competing views and champions more dialogue and a push for respect and understanding.
“Despite some recent improvements in collaboration, many of the participants remain wary of the cycle of study, lawsuits and court decisions. There is both hope and despair about what comes next and the potential for progress,” the report says.
Inslee said in a news release: “We need to hear from a variety of people from different regions and perspectives,” he said.
The battle over the dams is decades old and, as the report notes, somewhat entrenched. Dam removal proponents have rallied support in recent years as southern-resident killer whales decline, in part, because their primary food source, threatened chinook salmon, are struggling mightily in Puget Sound.
As the stakeholder report notes, billions have been spent on salmon recovery efforts, and those who want to breach the dams often argue it’s the last remaining option that could lead to big gains for salmon populations.
Salmon face myriad threats, including habitat losses, warming waters and food chains upended by climate change. The resurgence of seals and sea lions, predators of salmon, has also made an impact.
The decision will affect irrigation, barge transportation and power generation — keys to the agricultural economy in central and eastern Washington.