Statement from Inslee on the Final Report of the Joint Federal-State Process for the Recovery of Salmon in the Columbia Basin

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“The state and federal governments should implement a plan to replace the benefits of the Lower Snake River dams to allow the rupture to proceed,” Governor Jay Inslee said.

Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Governor Jay Inslee released the findings and recommendations of the months-long joint federal-state process that assessed the feasibility of breaching the Lower Snake River dams as a means protect endangered salmon and rainbow trout species. The recommendations emphasize that breaking the Lower Snake River dams is only possible after state and federal authorities replace or mitigate the benefits of the dams.

The Senator’s and Governor’s recommendations include three key themes:

  • The status quo is not an option. Changing economic, energy, and climate conditions require leaders to plan for changing circumstances in the Columbia Basin region over the coming decades.
  • It is imperative to save the salmon and other iconic species of the Columbia Basin. Scientific review claims that breaking these specific dams provides the greatest benefit to salmon.
  • The impacts and benefits of dam failure are significant, but they can and should be mitigated or replaced. Until the energy and economic benefits of dams are replaced or mitigated, failure is not a feasible or responsible option.

“The question of whether to break the Lower Snake River dams is deeply personal to the many communities and tribes engaged in this debate. The stakes are high and the debate often turns into a binary choice of breaching now for save the salmon or not to breach and maintain the status quo. Neither of these options is responsible or feasible,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “State and federal governments should implement a plan to replace the advantages of the Lower Snake River dams to allow the break to advance.

“We need to recognize that breaking the dams actually gives us the best chance to protect the endangered salmon and other iconic species that pass through these waters. But the hydropower and economic benefits of dams are significant, and breaking them before we have other systems in place to replace those benefits would be disastrous.

“Many of the actions needed to mitigate and replace these benefits will require federal and congressional action. For our part, I am committed to ensuring that we find a way to replace the energy advantages and to inviting the community and tribal leaders of the region to help us meet the siting and planning challenges associated with the construction of this infrastructure. This is work that is already required to comply with our Clean Energy Transformation Act. I will also continue to work with Heads of State on salmon recovery investments and policies so that we can continue the urgent work of protecting our salmon today.

“Furthermore, I have been extremely encouraged in recent months by the Biden administration’s commitment to negotiate a regional salmon recovery strategy, the one-year stay that litigants have agreed to in the ongoing lawsuit, and the historic investment opportunities presented by the passage of the Cut Inflation Act.These developments should give us all cause for optimism as we plan our way forward.

“I appreciate the incredible work of the consulting team that put together this report, and I thank everyone who provided comments and suggestions during this process. The hardest work is always figuring out the details, and I hope people will continue to come together in good faith so that we can achieve the mutually important goals of a thriving economy, an adequate supply of clean electricity for region and healthy salmon runs that honor the tribal treaties agreed to by the federal government decades ago.

Lower Snake River Dams: Benefits Replacement Report

Recommendations from Governor Inslee and Senator Murray

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