Inslee statement regarding final report for Joint Federal-State Process for salmon recovery 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 enable breaching to move forward,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.

Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee released the findings and recommendations of the months-long Joint Federal-State Process that evaluated the feasibility of breaching the Lower Snake River Dams as a way of protecting endangered salmon and steelhead species. The recommendations emphasize that breaching of the Lower Snake River Dams is only feasible after state and federal officials have replaced or mitigated the benefits of the dams

The senator and governor’s recommendations include three key themes:

  • Status quo is not an option. Changing economic, energy and climate conditions require leaders to plan for changing circumstances in the Columbia Basin region during the coming decades.
  • Saving salmon and other iconic species in the Columbia Basin is imperative. The scientific review affirms that breaching these specific dams offers the greatest benefit to the salmon.
  • The impacts and benefits of breaching the dams are significant, but they can and must be mitigated or replaced. Until the energy and economic benefits of the dams are replaced or mitigated, breaching is not a feasible or responsible option.

“The question of whether to breach 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 devolves into a binary choice to breach now to save the salmon or not breach and maintain the status quo. Neither of those options are responsible or feasible,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “The state and federal governments should implement a plan to replace the benefits of the Lower Snake River Dams to enable breaching to move forward.

“We must recognize that breaching the dams does in fact offer us the best chance at protecting endangered salmon and other iconic species that run through these waters. But the hydropower and economic benefits of the dams are significant, and breaching them before we have other systems in place to replace those benefits would be disastrous.

“Many of the actions required to mitigate and replace those benefits will require federal and congressional action. For our part, I’m committed to ensuring we find a way to replace the energy benefits and invite the community and Tribal leaders of the area to help us navigate the siting and planning challenges associated with building that infrastructure. This is work that is already required for us to comply with our Clean Energy Transformation Act. I will also continue working with state leaders on salmon recovery investments and policies so we can continue the urgent work of protecting our salmon today.

“In addition, I’ve been tremendously heartened in recent months by the Biden administration’s commitment to negotiate a regional salmon recovery strategy, the year-long stay that litigants have agreed to in the current lawsuit, and the historic investment opportunities presented by passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. These developments should give us all reason to be hopeful about planning our path forward.

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

Lower Snake River Dams: Benefit Replacement Report

Recommendations of Governor Inslee and Senator Murray

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