Free the Snake
The following is from the Dam Sense news Room…
This piece is in response to Governor Inslee’s Interview with Simone Del Rosario of Q13 Fox on July 26th. It is meant to serve as a correction of mis-information due to lack of appropriate information.
“We can’t wait for that study, we need to reduce the mortality of Chinook smolts as they move down the river” Jay Inslee, July 26th.
By “that study” Governor Inslee is referring the Columbia River System Operations review (CRSO/EIS) Biological Opinion ordered by Judge Michael Simon. The CRSO/EIS would cost taxpayers roughly $100M. This price tag is equivalent to the amount it would take to breach both Lower Granite and Little Goose Dams. There is big money for Washington state in the fields of Scientific study, and rightfully so! Without the work and funding of scientific studies, accurate fish counts and thus mortality rates could not be calculated.
Unfortunately, as Chinook numbers crash, more funding for scientific studies has become available thus inflicting a loop cycle that puts the “tough decisions” off until the next study becomes available. We are in that loop, and for the Orca it has become a death spiral.
Governor Inslee didn’t lay out an immediate action plan. But we have one – start breaching the dams. We agree that we can’t wait for a study. The fact is this topic has been studied to death. There is nothing stopping Governor Inslee from acting right now to demand that the US Corp start breaching the dams.
“What I’m supporting right now is a scientific analysis of the consequences of [dam breaching], then it will largely be a federal decision” Jay Inslee, July 26th.
We have $33 million worth of studies and an EIS. We have done more than enough science. The people of Washington can’t let the Governor pass the buck to federal government. The Governor has the duty to pressure the US Army Corp’s (USACE) to start the dam breaching process. (We, of course, need to pressure the US Corps too!). Alternative 4 (ALT. 4) of the current EIS in use by US Army Corps already studied Dam Breaching in great detail. This EIS can be used within a matter of months with an updated Record of Decision (ROD).
Simply increasing spill, which the Governor spoke to in his interview, prolongs a dwindling number of wild Chinook. It by no means enables the appropriate numbers of Chinook to survive to a point of making a difference in the Southern Resident Killer Whale (“SRKW”) diet. It is true that we “need to reduce the mortality of Chinook smolts that move down the river” but increasing flow can do this on the order of a few thousand of smolts per dam, whereas dam removal can tip the scales to the point of 1,000,000’s of successful smolt passage per dam and associated lake predation.
“If this is a 5-year window . . .” Jay Inslee, July 26th.
Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research did use the term “5-year window”. Yet this not a 5-year window for action on our part but that on the part of the Whales! 2018 needs to be year 1 in a milestone toward Orca population growth. We need to give them every opportunity we can, starting in 2018 with dam breaching, so that they can achieve reproductive success. There is a lag time built into any action prescribed, exacerbated by many factors. Some of which are: the time it takes (14 to 18 months) for smolts to mature to full size Chinook and the time needed for Orca to increase their blubber layers to birth healthy offspring. The potential for their extinction is far too close. 100% of SRKW’s pregnancies have failed to be viable in the last 3 years. We are all watching the potential for extinction of the Orcas increase if additional food in the form of wild Chinook Salmon is not released to the Columbia estuary.
“We can’t wait for breaching these dams” Jay Inslee, July 26th.
With this statement, Governor Inslee implied that dam breaching would take too long. The fact is that so long as there is the political will there is very little waiting to do. Starting to breach the dams is the quickest solution with the highest positive impact. ALT. 4 in the US Army Corp’s operable EIS acknowledges that breaching is the most viable option for recovering wild Chinook stocks and supplementing the Orca’s prey availability. Governor Inslee has it backwards. It’s not that “we can’t wait”. It’s the Orca and Snake river wild Chinook who “can’t wait for breaching these dams.”
What also can’t wait is the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) bottom line. BPA is the federal agency that markets power from the dams. The EIS does not detail the drastic economic loses that BPA faces annually over these Dams as they become more expensive to maintain. Add to that the fact that out of the last 93,000 hours of power generated by these dams, only 2 have been used by ratepayers, the rest having been sold on the surplus market, usually at a financial loss. President Trump would argue that is no way to run a business and I’d have to agree.
“[The Orca are the] heartbeat of the state of Washington” Jay Inslee, July 26th.
We couldn’t agree more. Without a drastic increase of wild Chinook from Snake river this pulse will fade and eventually flatline.