Lower Granite Dam

The Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River near Pomeroy, Wash.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Gov. Jay Inslee say Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson’s plan to remove four Snake River dams cannot be included in federal infrastructure package.

Instead, they’re calling for more regional collaboration.

“While we appreciate Representative Simpson’s efforts and the conversations we have had so far with tribes and stakeholders, it is clear more work within the Pacific Northwest is necessary to craft a lasting, comprehensive solution,” Inslee and Murray said in a joint press release.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., told the Seattle Times she also does not support the Simpson proposal, though she does support salmon recovery in the Columbia Basin and across the region and collaborative processes to get there.

Murray and Inslee say regional collaboration is needed “now more than ever.”

Any solution must honor tribal treaty rights, ensure reliable transportation and use of the river; ensure ongoing access for fishermen and sportsmen, guarantee Washington farmers remain competitive and are able to get farm products to market; and deliver reliable, affordable and clean energy, they stated.

Inslee and Murray called for “a formal, regional process that is based on science, consensus, and ensuring all voices in the region are heard.”

Simpson has not proposed any legislation. He offered his plan in February. It was rejected by agricultural stakeholders and environmental groups.

In a statement, the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, which supports navigation, trade and economic development on the river system, said the organization is “encouraged” by the Inslee-Murray statement and strongly supports a “collaborative, science-based process that seeks to restore salmon runs and works for all the stakeholders and communities in the Columbia River Basin.”

“Gov. Inslee and Washington’s two senators are right to reject Rep. Simpson’s deeply flawed proposal to remove the four lower Snake River dams,” Sophia Ressler, Washington wildlife attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release.

Inslee and Murray say groups like the Columbia Basin Collaborative — convened by Inslee and the governors of Idaho, Oregon and Montana — could help identify a path to achieving consensus.

A 2020 federal report rejected dam breaching.

NOAA’s biological opinion found that breaching the dams would benefit the fish in the long term but would also impact the environmental, socioeconomic and cultural aspects of river operations.

The preferred alternative calls for making changes at the dams to improve passage and conditions for salmon and other fish listed under the Endangered Species Act.

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