Construction of hydroelectric dams along the Columbia and its tributaries beginning in the early 1900's made possible reliable and affordable power production in the region and enhanced irrigation, flood control, and navigation. The Columbia River system today, with its hundreds of dams, is the most hydroelectrically developed river system in the world. However, one dramatic downside to the hydroelectric development of the river has been its detrimental effects on fish populations.
Salmon runs are now at 1-3% of the levels they were when Lewis and Clark journeyed through the area. More than a dozen species of salmon and steelhead are now listed under the Endangered Species Act. The dams are not the only reason for the declines in fish runs- pollution and habitat degradation have also been a factor- but few would dispute that the dams are a major contributor.
Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, the issue of salmon recovery has become an explosive topic in the Pacific Northwest. For too long, leaders in government have chosen politics over policy, and the result has been a divided region, dwindling salmon runs, and a reliance on the judicial branch to make management decisions. I believe the economic, cultural, and ecological significance of salmon to the region are not things that should be discounted, or used to divide people. It is high time that we in the Northwest start making decisions based on sound public policy, not political expedience.
We have a legal, moral, and economic responsibility to restore salmon runs to healthy, harvestable levels. Recent studies have shown that restored fisheries could bring $5.5 billion annually to the Northwest for the sport-fishing industry and the local communities and businesses that support it. This is not just an environmental issue- common-sense salmon recovery is also about protecting family-wage jobs and supporting rural communities.
Click here to learn more about McDermott's HR
1615, "The Salmon Planning Act".
Related press release and speeches
• Time to End the Republican Wasteland of Environmental Policy