Dear Gov. Inslee: As a student at Evergreen State College who cares deeply about environmental protection, I am very concerned about the impact of the four lower Snake River dams on both Chinook salmon and southern resident killer whale populations. I sincerely hope that you will request that the Obama administration carry out plans to breach these four dams for the sake of reviving and preserving these iconic state species.
The endangered southern resident killer whales support a $75 million dollars per year whale watch industry in Washington state. Seeing as 80 percent of the southern resident orcas’ diet is Chinook salmon, reviving regional salmon populations is the most certain way to increase the orcas’ chances of survival.
And, according to NOAA Fisheries, “perhaps the single greatest change in food availability for resident killer whales since the late 1800s has been the decline of salmon in the Columbia River basin,” into which the Snake River flows.
The Columbia-Snake River basin once produced more salmon than any other river system in the world. Today, only about 1 percent of the historic number of fish returns to the watershed to spawn. The historical ability of the Snake/Columbia watershed to produce enormous salmon runs gives these rivers the most potential for again producing great Chinook runs, which would enable the southern resident orcas to survive.
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Gov. Inslee, it is up to you to urge the Obama administration to move forward with the removal of these harmful dams.