The region's major agricultural organizations are part of a group asking four Northwest governors to consider a holistic approach to salmon recovery.

Twenty-five cooperative electric utilities and  farm organizations from around the region signed the letter to Govs. Brad Little of Idaho, Kate Brown of Oregon, Jay Inslee of Washington and Steve Bullock of Montana and that state's governor-elect, Greg Gianforte.

The governors recently announced a regional collaboration on salmon recovery in the Columbia River Basin.

The letter is intended to make sure the governors understand the scope of the problem as they bring stakeholders together, said Kurt Miller, executive director of Northwest RiverPartners in Vancouver, Wash.

Northwest RiverPartners serves not-for-profit, community-owned electric utilities in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada and Wyoming.

"We're trying to make sure they understand that this is a trans-oceanic issue — it's not just the Pacific Coast that's having salmon survival problems, it's the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, it's essentially a world-wide problem," Miller said. 

The stakeholders ask for:

• Acknowledgement of "strong scientific research" demonstrating declines in key salmon populations due to warming, acidifying oceans.

• Solutions evaluated for their effect on the social cost of carbon and estimates for carbon production increases if hydropower generation is decreased.

• Likely socioeconomic and health impacts on under-represented and vulnerable communities that need access to affordable energy, clean air and agricultural jobs.

• Solutions that don't add to the risk of wildfires and other climate-driven disasters that can affect both salmon and people.

"Everybody wants healthy runs for salmon," said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, which signed the letter along with  other regional wheat organizations and grower groups. "We also want a healthy economy."

Environmental groups have been pushing for the removal of the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite dams on the Snake River to solve salmon recovery problems. 

"Clearly there's no silver bullet," Squires said. "The issue is bigger than that. (The letter) points out there needs to be collaborative discussions. It's important for ag to say, 'We need to take a balanced approach.'"

The coalition of groups that signed the letter shows broad support across communities that depend on hydroelectricity, salmon and agriculture, Miller said.

"We want to make sure it's approached in a scientific and logical way," he said.

"Obviously (the governors) are hearing from those that want to take out dams," Squires said. "I think it's important for them to hear that there's constituents in the industry that say, 'That's not the solution to the problem.'"

Recommended for you