Lower Snake River Dams Update

Snake River dam showing protest projection at night. Sen. Murray, Breach this Dam!
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I wanted to update you on the responses, and non-responses, to our recent letter to Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee emphasizing the coastal stake in the fate of Snake River salmon and the lower Snake dams.

Neither of the two addressees — Murray and Inslee — has directly responded, although senior staff to Murray did convey, via a Sierra Club colleague, that they’d received the letter and taken in its message.

I also shared our letter with the office of Sen. Cantwell and with Reps. Larsen, Kilmer and Jayapal, in whose districts we variously reside. I’ve not heard back from Sen. Cantwell’s office. On the other hand, all three House offices promptly acknowledged receipt of the letter and promised to share it with their individual bosses.

Before I say a bit more about the House responses, I want to caution against reading too much into the non-responses; not getting a prompt reply is fairly typical, and especially unsurprising on an issue whose politics are as fluid and fast-moving as the politics of salmon, orcas and dams are now.

Now a little more detail on the House response. Rep. Larsen’s district director quickly got back to me with a thanks for the message and a promise to share it with his Congressman. 

Rep. Jayapal’s staff was very responsive, promising to “flag this for Rep. Jayapal” and adding, “We have appreciated the ongoing engagement of the Save Our Wild Salmon coalition and Sierra Club with our office, their efforts to keep our office apprised of the developments on this issue, and educate our team and the Congresswoman as well about the importance of restoring abundant salmon for the region as a whole, and the specific importance to Seattle in particular. Rep. Jayapal has been engaging on this topic in a number of ways. Our office has connected with Rep. Simpson to learn more about his proposal and we are also reaching out to Sen. Murray’s staff as well to learn more about how the Senator is thinking about next steps.”

Finally, Rep. Kilmer’s legislative director sent an acknowledgement and thanks, but with additional comments that drew a further response from me. That exchange is included below.

Extinction or Abundance advertisement.
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Our letter, with your voices, is one strong element in a broad campaign to stop kicking the can down the road. On June 17, on the evening after I sent off our letter, Nimiipuu [Nez Perce] Protecting the Environment, working with the Backbone Campaign, pulled off a very cool action, projecting images and pro-salmon slogans on the face of Lower Granite Dam, just downstream from Lewiston/Clarkston; shown above. And then, on Sunday, June 20, Save Our wild Salmon and a group of allies placed full-page ads in the Seattle Times and the Portland Oregonian, calling on Sens. Murray, Cantwell and (from Oregon) Wyden and Merkley to make a difference between extinction and abundance for endangered salmon and orcas. Digital versions are still running in the Times and Oregonian, and in papers in Spokane, Yakima and Tacoma. Click image on right.

The next big event we’re looking forward to is the Sovereignty Summit called by Northwest Tribes for July 7-8. Congress will be in recess for Fourth of July week and the Tribes will be making their case, in their own voice, and expecting a positive response from elected officials invited to the summit. I’m hoping this will be a pivotal event. The summit follows on the resolution on salmon and river restoration unanimously adopted recently by the 57 members of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, emphatically calling for urgent solutions, including breaching the four lower snake dams. Click here to see that resolution.

Thanks again for your involvement and support in a campaign that’s gathering momentum.

Marc Sullivan

From: Allen, Katie <katie.allen@mail.house.gov>
Sent: Wednesday, June 16, 2021 5:38 PM
To: ‘Marc Sullivan’ <sullivanmarc@hotmail.com>
Subject: RE: Sharing Letter to Sen. Murray & Gov. Inslee

Thanks for sharing this Marc – I will be sure to pass it along to Rep. Kilmer. Glad to see the letter reconfirms our shared commitment to “to actively support the urgent work of identifying and implementing solutions that work for farmers and fishermen, for Tribes and utilities, and for coastal and Columbia Basin communities.” Rep. Kilmer will continue to support these efforts by encouraging all stakeholders, including those represented in the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, to participate in the Columbia Basin Collaborative process and engage in constructive dialogue that produces consensus-driven action items for state and federal leaders.

Thank you for your continued partnership on this front!



Fri 6/18/2021 6:26 PM
To: Katie Allen


Happy Friday! And thanks for your prompt response to the letter to Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee that I shared.

Yes, the members of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition have consistently called for “solutions that work for farmers and fishermen, for Tribes and utilities, and for coastal and Columbia Basin communities”, and I think we’ve shown considerable flexibility on what we’d support to keep all parties whole, or better.

But we’ve also been clear – based on the very strong scientific case — that the cornerstone of any lawful and effective salmonid recovery plan in the Columbia/Snake basin is restoration of a free-flowing lower Snake River. And history indicates that a “consensus-driven” agreement on that core issue is not going to happen. The response to Rep. Simpson’s concept only reinforces that reality.

I’d add that our Northwest history shows that on no major regional issue have we achieved consensus, if by “consensus” is meant near universal agreement. Even now, there is no such consensus on Wild Olympics (Hello, Grays Harbor BOCC), nor was there on the Yakima Basin Plan, passage of the Northwest Power Act or the decision to build the dams in the first place. What they all had was a critical mass of support and leadership by key members of the delegation to forge the solution while addressing legitimate needs and issues (not fears and fantasies).

That is what is needed here. And that is why it is encouraging that Senator Murray and Governor Inslee have stepped forward to initiate a stakeholder process. The CBC may play some role but is most likely not the primary place for development of the essential elements of the package. We hope Rep. Kilmer will work with Senator Murray, Gov. Inslee and others to advance this process in a timely manner and help secure the funds this year to assure our ability to implement the solution.

On the core issues of developing a strategy that complies with federal law and resolves the controversy over the dams, a “higher power” needs to make the call and establish the framework. For two decades, that call has been in the hands of the federal action agencies, but their leadership has produced only salmon recovery plans that fail to recover salmon and fail to pass muster in the courts.

So, we continue to call on our elected officials, and especially our members of Congress, to step up and establish some key foundations on which solutions can be built.

Have a great weekend. Summer (meaning temperatures above 70) has finally arrived here on the Olympic Peninsula.


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