WASHINGTON D.C., DC — On Thursday, Tribal members and advocates with the Salmon Orca Project met with federal officials, calling for the removal of the Snake River dams.
They held a series of speeches, songs and dances as they called on Congress to act.
"There needs to be action taken," said Nez Perce Tribe Chair Samuel Penney. "We believe that there's enough biological, scientific information available to make a decision that should be based on that and not be a purely political decision. The extinction crisis that we're at now, there needs to be urgent action- there's no time for additional studies."
The Biden administration on Tuesday released two reports arguing that removing dams on the lower Snake River may be needed to restore salmon runs to historic levels. Replacing the energy created by the dams is possible but it will cost between $11-19 billion.
A draft report by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found changes are needed to restore salmon, ranging from the removal of one to four dams on the lower Snake River to the reintroduction of salmon to areas entirely blocked by dams. A second report studied how power supplies could be replaced if dams are breached.
However, groups such as Northwest RiverPartners are pushing back, saying the data doesn't show that removing the dams would necessarily recover salmon. The group, which represents community-owned electric utilities and clean energy agencies, says the hydropower produced is essential to fighting climate change.
Major benefits of the dams include making the Snake River navigable up to Lewiston, Idaho, allowing barges to carry wheat and other crops to ocean ports. Eliminating the dams would require truck and rail transportation improvements to move crops.
The dams also generate electricity, provide irrigation water for farmers and recreation opportunities for people.
Last month, Sen. Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee announced that replacing the benefits provided by the four giant hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River in Washington state would cost $10.3 billion to $27.2 billion.
More than a dozen runs of salmon and steelhead are at risk of extinction in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Billions of dollars have been spent on salmon and steelhead recovery, but the fish continue to decline.