Sammamish Youth Board released a letter on July 5 calling for the removal of four dams on the lower Snake River in order to save the iconic Chinook salmon that spawns on the river.
The youth board is an official commission of the City of Sammamish, with members selected from the student body of local middle and high schools. As an official city entity, they required city council approval to publish an official stance on the dams, which they received after a council vote on July 5.
Their statement was then submitted as public comment to inform Sen. Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee’s official recommendation on whether the dams should be removed. Murray and Inslee have so far released a draft report on the issue, and opened public comment until July 11.
The four dams were constructed in the early 1970s, with the goal of generating clean, hydroelectric energy for the Pacific Northwest. According to Walla Walla’s division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, they were built to support wind energy, help meet peak power loads, and contribute to transmission grid reliability.
However, the youth board argues that the lower Snake River dams have had a disastrous impact on the Chinook salmon population native to the Pacific Northwest.
These dams block the Columbia Basin Chinook salmon’s migratory paths, decreasing not only the salmon population, but other species that rely on salmon for food, such as orcas.
“The lower Snake River dams do not meet our standards for a clean energy future,” said the youth board in their statement. “Energy that comes at the cost of a keystone species is not ‘clean’ by any reasonable standard.”
They further contend that the Snake River watershed supports 70% of the habitat available for Chinook populations in the Columbia basin, and the removal of these dams would help recover much of this habitat and restore a healthy regional ecosystem.
Although the dams are not located within the borders of Sammamish, the youth board felt it was crucial to draw attention to this issue, which impacts the entire ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest, and impacts the endangered Southern Resident orcas that rely on Chinook salmon as their food source.
“As youth representatives of the City of Sammamish, when it comes to issues that affect this entire region, we have a responsibility to call for action,” said Maanit Goel, board chair, in an email to the Sammamish Independent. “We are urging our political representatives to set a state-wide precedent for clean energy that ensures no keystone species is affected by new renewable infrastructure.”
To read the commissioned report and learn more about the issue, visit lsrdoptions.org