This is a crucial moment for Southern Resident Killer Whales and the salmon they need to survive. Experts agree: Breaching the Lower Snake River Dams is our last, best hope for recovering critically endangered salmon, orcas, and their ecosystem.

The Biden Administration is listening, and there are promising signs. But we need real action, right now. That’s where you come in! We’ve compiled easy actions and resources below. Please act, share, and repeat!

Take Action

Send real mail.

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Make a call.

1-202-456-1111

The comment line (including voicemail) is open
Tues-Thurs 8am -12pm PST /
11am – 3pm EST.

Send a text.

1-302-404-0880

Be sure to follow through with the registration link so your message will be counted.

Send an email.

Click here to send a message. 

Make the Case

We are out of time. The population hovers at just 75 orcas, and they are starving. Over 80% of their diet is Chinook salmon; 50% comes from the Columbia Basin; 50% of that historically came from the Snake River basin. Today, about 1% of the historical number of salmon return to the Snake River watershed to spawn. Recovery has to start now, with the best known solution.

We need to move fast. LSRD are Snake River salmon’s biggest hurdle–which means breaching is their best hope of renewal. The dams have destroyed spawning grounds, overheated the water, and decimated survival rates. Thankfully, salmon numbers can dramatically rebound after breaching, as the Elwha River has recently shown. If they start this winter, we would see a stronger salmon run by Summer 2024.

Salmon are a keystone species and the Southern Residents are irreplaceable! The Snake River was once one of the top salmon rivers in the world. Sadly that is no longer the case.

The LSRD are deadbeat dams. They’ve cost an estimated 8 to 9 billion dollars in failed salmon recovery attempts, and they lose millions more every year in unstorable surplus energy, often sold at a loss. They continue to get older and costlier to maintain, while solar and wind energy have replaced their power; energy efficiency has done the same seven times over. And they’re not even clean! They emit massive amounts of methane that contributes to the climate crisis–while driving orcas and salmon extinct.

Because that’s how soon this needs to happen. NOAA has called for “urgent” and “immediate” breaching. President Biden and the Army Corps of Engineers have the authority to breach now, without congressional authorization or appropriations. Two of the four dams could be down by spring 2024, immediately improving salmon runs and feeding Southern Resident orcas soon after. 

They have until August 31 to make a decision, so we have 1 month to tell Biden it’s time to save the salmon and orcas by freeing the Snake River–before it’s too late and we lose them forever.

Spread the Word

Learn More and Get Involved

Research via Dam Sense

Dam Sense has been front and center in the sensible pursuit to immediately retire and breach the LSRD. Check out their library of government reports and documents.

Action Page via Wild Orca

Wild Orca has more actions you can take to help save salmon and Southern Resident orcas from extinction.

Action Page via Dam Truth

Dam Truth has a comprehensive page to contact relevant decision makers, talking points and FAQ’s. Don’t forget to sign the petition!

Center for Whale Research

The CWR has an action and education page dedicated to salmon and SRKW recovery, plus population page with all the latest news. Sign up for their newsletter for updates on orca encounters.

Orca Network

Orca Network has a Learning Center with resources, classes, research papers, a video library and Kid Zone! And an Action & Advocacy page so you can learn more about how to get involved.

Cetaceans.org

Cetaceans.org is co-founded by Peggy Oki. It has an in-depth education and action page for SRKW and other actions, recommended reading and viewing for wild and captive whales.

Legal Rights for the Salish Sea

LRSS works to establish legal standing for animals and ecosystems, so they have rights rather than protections that can be undermined by politics. Check out their action page.

Know the FAQs

NOAA is sounding the alarms that breaching is “urgent” and “essential.” They repeat it must happen “immediately” because the research is all there. Now they just need to act on it immediately. 

These orcas cannot survive without more salmon, fast. Sure, they face plenty of threats–hot water, toxicants, fast ships, loud seas–but they need basic nutrition to thrive and build the population. The SRKW are malnourished, which means few calves and high mortality. As expert Ken Balcomb bluntly explained to President Biden, these orcas are ”on their way out. They’re already going extinct.” 

That’s true for salmon populations too. By 2025, according to a 2021 Nez Perce study, 77% of Snake River Spring/Summer Chinook salmon will be effectively extinct, with little chance of recovery. So when NOAA Fisheries says that inaction will result in “catastrophic loss,” they mean all of it. Breached dams mean there will be 10 million fewer young salmon (smolt) deaths annually.

Breaching immediately is the only realistic hope for orcas’ survival. And Biden can make it happen. Way back in 2002, the ACOE knew breaching had “the highest probability of success for salmon recovery.” After 2 decades of corroborating research and devastating losses, Biden’s team knows that breaching is the only way to save this ecosystem. He has the authority to make it happen. Now he needs to hear that the public support breaching in 2023.

Nope. The LSRD lose millions of dollars annually for Bonneville Power Administration, which passes the costs on to consumers. Conditions on the Snake River limit their yield, and what they do produce is unstorable surplus–so that extra energy gets sold on the open market more often at a loss. Ratepayers pick up the bill, while BPA’s federal debt cap keeps getting raised. 

On top of local ecological damage, the dams contribute to the climate crisis–they emit as much methane as a natural gas plant! If they’re breached this year, methane reduction over 10 years would be equal to 2 or 3 mid-size natural gas plants or a coal plant.

The dams were built to allow barges to carry goods up and down the river to Lewiston, Idaho’s inland port, but they’re no longer needed for navigation. Freight traffic has declined for 20 years. At this point, this heavily subsidized transport can easily be replaced by existing (and less expensive) rail infrastructure right alongside the Lower Snake River. 

Likewise, the dams are not necessary for irrigation. Only one dam, Ice Harbor, is used for incidental irrigation that can be replaced by extending pipes to the river, at less cost than preserving the dams. Meanwhile, breaching would expose 8,000 acres of fertile agricultural land–along with the 140 miles of Chinook spawning habitat.

Lastly, the LSRD do not provide flood control.

No. The cost to breach and mitigate services is affordable.

These dams have already cost a fortune in economic as well as ecological terms. Their anticipated expense to maintain far outweighs the cost of breaching. Just the turbines alone are coming to end of life and prohibitively expensive or impossible to replace. 

The cost of breaching is affordable and the funds are available – Congress not needed. The infrastructure can be decommissioned and secured by creating a channel bypass, washing away the earthen berms around the concrete structures. This will allow salmon the cooler water and free-flowing access they need.

Under the NW Power Act, the cost can be paid via the Bonneville Fund and Columbia River Fish Mitigation Program, which offers  a 22% credit against the BPA treasury debt. After deliberately wasting decades and billions, BPA and its ratepayers would end up saving money by breaching now. 

If we don’t, the cost is going to be catastrophic.

No, but this has been a stalling tactic for decades. The White House and the Army Corp of Engineers already have the authority and duty to act in accordance with existing research and pending lawsuits. In addition to subverting tribal sovereignty, the LSRD are out of compliance with ACOE’s own mandate, the Northwest Power Act, and the National Environmental Protection Act.  

The Corps can use their own 2002 Environmental Impact Statement with an updated Record of Decision (ROD) and put the Lower Snake River Dams into “non-operational” status without congressional approval. President Biden just needs to make that decision and breach NOW. Please let him know you support immediate breaching!

Campaign Credits

Jim Waddell - Civil Engineer, PE USACE Retired & Heather Nicholson - Research Associate - Dam Sense
Dr. Jeffrey Ventre - Voice of the Orcas & Superpod Co-Founder
Dr. Katie Comer - Portland State University
Delphinidae.info - Graphic designer, archivist, artist, website design
Haze Sommer - Co-founder TilikumCo - Advocate, website Design

All talking points and frequently asked questions are courtesy of Jim Waddell and Heather Nicholson of Dam Sense and Dr Kate Comer, Portland University.

Thank You

Howard Garrett - Orca Network
Betsey Thoennes & Sharon Grace - Dam Truth
Dr. Deborah Giles - Wild Orca
Peggy Oki - Cetaceans.org
Carly Ferguson - OCAW
Dr. Naomi Rose - Animal Welfare Institute
Dora Christina Attard - Kids4Kiska
Shana Kelly - Advocate
"I am not going to count them to zero, at least not quietly."

This page is dedicated to the late Ken Balcomb.

He taught us about the Southern Residents, inspired us to care and motivated us to fight for them.

We will not quietly count them to zero either.