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Commentaries and editorials

Act Now for Orcas,
Urge Removal of Dams

by Virginia Lohr
Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber, August 28, 2019

If we wait even one more year to breach the lower Snake River dams, it may be too late for our orcas

In this photo taken Tuesday, July 24, 2018, provided by the Center for Whale Research, a baby orca whale is being pushed by her mother after being born off the Canada coast near Victoria, British Columbia. The new orca died soon after being born. (David Ellifrit/Center for Whale Research via AP) The 2019 film "Dammed to Extinction" was shown on Vashon in June. It's about southern resident orcas and how breaching four lower Snake River dams can save them and endangered salmon. I missed the Vashon showing, but caught one where Jim Waddell spoke. He worked on the Army Corps of Engineers' 2002 report that concluded removing those particular dams was the best option to save salmon economically and biologically. The arguments for this are even stronger today.

Here are some facts. California no longer buys power from those dams for air conditioning: They have solar power. Irrigation water would remain available by extending intake pipes to the river. Fish that thrive in those lakes, but not in free-flowing rivers, eat young salmon. Removing the dams' earthen embankments (hydraulic breaching) is quick and relatively inexpensive, leaving the concrete dams in place for re-purposing. has many more facts.

Wadell urges people to write Gov. Jay Inslee, telling him to ask the corps to breach the dams this year to save orcas. The governor does not have legal authority to order this. The corps does, plus it has a fiduciary responsibility since the dams only return 15 cents of value per dollar spent. It has some political pressure to keep dams, and corps officials say governors of the affected states haven't asked them to breach the dams. Inslee has the moral authority to demand the corps breach the dams and should do so immediately.

I lived near these dams for 30+ years. I'm familiar with this issue. I strongly support Wadell's request to contact Gov. Inslee. Wadell believes if we wait even one more year to breach, it may be too late for our orcas. Given recent deaths of more southern residents, he may be right.

Virginia Lohr
Act Now for Orcas, Urge Removal of Dams
Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber, August 28, 2019

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