By Renee Diaz
State Journal 

Students push for dam breaching

 

Last updated 1/26/2023 at 12:45pm

Renee Diaz | Washington State Journal

Envrionmental activists rally Jan. 13 for Snake River dam breaching on the steps of the Capitol.

OLYMPIA - A handful of Western Washington activists called for removing Snake River dams in an effort to "save our salmon."

Washington Youth Ocean and River Conservation Alliance and other activists advocated for protection of salmon and the orca pods that depend on them during a rally in Olympia on Jan. 13.

"We need (Gov. Jay) Inslee and the political leaders of the Pacific Northwest - specifically in the state Legislature - to understand the urgency of this issue," Sammamish Youth Board Chairman Maanit Goel said. "The salmon cannot wait."

The activists said they want to see Snake River dams taken down, but acknowledged that is unlikely any time soon.

That's because Washington can't afford to lose the clean energy the dams produce and farmers in Eastern Washington rely on the dams for irrigation.

Another big hurdle is cost of dam breaching.

A study commissioned by Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, outlined the steps that would need to be taken to offset the impact of dam removal.

Estimates of the cost of replacing the services currently provided by the dams range from $10.3-$31.3 billion.

Insteady of dam breaching, lawmakers this year are focusing on other ways to improve conditions for salmon and orca populations.

"We've got a plan to eliminate all of those barriers to salmon migration steadily," Rep. Alex Ramel D-Bellingham, said at the protest.

In this year's session, Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, introduced House Bill 1215, which focuses on the protection and restoration of riparian areas at the edges of rivers and streams.

Biologists say riparian forests filter pollutants from storm water runoff, reduce erosion and are important for the stability of salmon populations.

The bill requires the State Conservation Commission to fund the protection of riparian zones and establish a salmon riparian habitat policy task force in cooperation with American Indian tribes in the state.

The bill was introduced in the House on Jan. 10.

A public hearing took place before the House committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

 

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