A spirited rally, complete with giant orca and salmon sculptures, took place on Saturday, March 26, starting at the University of Washington (UW) Tacoma, to urge lawmakers to restore the lower Snake River in southeast Washington State by removing its four dams to save its endangered salmon from extinction and help feed critically endangered Southern Resident orcas.
Rally-goers included tribal and environmental leaders, along with families, outdoors supporters, activists and others who came from as far away as the Olympic Peninsula and Bellingham. More than 200 people attended, with at least two dozen participants coming from Vashon.
Among the more than one dozen sponsors of the event were Vashon’s Backbone Campaign, as well as the Save Our wild Salmon (SOS) Coalition, a regional advocacy organization led by islander Joseph Bogaard.
“We are at a moment right now of great urgency and opportunity for salmon and the many benefits they bring our region, said Bogaard. “Without bold action in 2022, extinction may become our legacy. Fortunately, political leadership is emerging, bringing people together to develop solutions to restore salmon and invest in our communities.”
The event reflects growing public support and momentum for the removal of four federal dams on the Snake River — a measure supported by regional scientists and long advocated by Northwest tribes, sport and commercial fishing groups, people of faith, outdoor recreational enthusiasts’ associations, and national, regional and Tacoma-area conservation organizations.
All these groups, said Bogaard, support a comprehensive regional solution to remove the dams and replace their services with investments in clean energy resources, grid modernization, and agricultural irrigation and transportation.
Last year, Sen. Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee acknowledged the extinction crisis facing Snake River salmon and steelhead and committed themselves to develop a long-term plan to protect and restore these imperiled populations. As a key step in the process of developing a comprehensive solution for Snake River salmon and Northwest communities, they are working closely with the region’s tribes and stakeholders and other experts to produce a report this spring that identifies how to replace the energy, irrigation and transportation services currently provided by the dams.
To find out more about their process and provide feedback, visit lsrdoptions.org.
Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee have promised to deliver their plan, including a decision on the future of these four dams, by July 31 – just a few months from now.
In a press release promoting the rally, Environment Washington’s Campaign Associate Mandy Apa detailed the urgency to restore the lower Snake River.
“Salmon are not only a key part of our cultural identity in the Northwest but also vital to keeping Washington’s ecosystems healthy,” she said. “Salmon are a primary food source for the Southern Resident orca that traverse our coastal waters. Today, dams block 40% of historic salmon spawning grounds on the Snake and Columbia Rivers. These conditions have helped create a crisis for both these species. Breaching the four lower Snake River dams is one of the most effective solutions to save salmon and orca from extinction.”
Speakers at Saturday’s event included Puyallup Tribal Councilmember Annette Bryan and Port of Tacoma Commissioner Kristin Ang. After the rally, many members of the crowd took part in a clean-up event at Swan Creek Park, on Tacoma’s east side.
Another rally, complete with a “human orca mural,” is set for April 2, in Olympia. For that event, activists will rally beginning at 9 a.m. at the Olympia Ballroom, 116 Legion Way SE, Olympia.
For more information and to get in touch with Vashon organizers, visit backbonecampaign.org and wildsalmon.org.