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Free the Snake River

The Southern Resident Orcas in the Salish Sea are starving and critically endangered, there are now only 82 of them left (83 if you include Lolita/Tokitae). Extinction is forever and the Orcas are nearly there.

“For Rhapsody who starved to death with her unborn child, for Samish, a matriarch whose family will surely miss her presence and for Polaris who is showing signs of starvation and has a dependent calf who needs his mom, for Double stuff who looks emaciated…and for Ocean Sun who still waits for her daughter Tokitae/Lotlita to come home, lets make sure she is still there when Tokitae comes home….and for all those babies who need healthy families.
Let’s make sure they hear us!!
We want those whales!!”

TALKING POINTS

  • Approximately 80% of the Southern Resident Killer Whales’ diet is Chinook salmon.
  • The Snake River watershed is the most important source of salmon for Southern Resident orcas.
  • The dams must be breached immediately, there’s no more time to waste continuing studies and observation.
  • The longer we wait, the fewer Orcas there will be left to study.
  • The Southern Residents live or die based on Chinook salmon abundance.
  • NOAA listed the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs) as endangered in 2005 when there were 88 orcas.
  • Now, over a decade later, there are only 82 (83 if you include Lolita).

Between 1961 and 1975 the lower Snake River in eastern Washington state underwent a dramatic transformation when four dams were erected to create an inland seaport at Lewiston, Idaho. That transformation has proved costly for riverside communities and taxpayers who continue to subsidize the dams’ existence.

Power produced by the dams and transportation benefits they provide pale in comparison with the billions spent by rate payers and taxpayers to maintain a broken status quo.

The rapidly rising costs of maintaining the lower Snake River system are presenting significant challenges to the federal agencies that manage the dams. The cost of mitigation hatcheries for lost Snake River stocks is rising a rate of 5 percent annually, and turbine rehabilitation over the next 15 years will require at least $775 million in today’s dollars. A growing set of cost indicators suggest the government can’t continue propping up the system.

Meanwhile, since construction of the dams, all of the Snake River basin’s wild salmon and steelhead have been listed as endangered or threatened, and several species have been driven to extinction. The demise of Snake River chinook salmon, preyed upon by iconic endangered southern resident orcas in Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean, is also limiting the orcas’ ability to recover and elevating the urgency for action on the lower Snake River.

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