Ignoring Widely Understood Need to Remove Deadbeat Dams, GOP Will Push Sea Lion Slaughter at Thursday Salmon Hearing

Washington, D.C. – Republicans at tomorrow’s 10:00 a.m. Natural Resources Committee hearing on Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s H.R. 2083 will argue that the best way to rescue the Pacific Northwest’s ailing salmon runs is to kill approximately 1,000 area sea lions rather than breach, bypass, or remove a series of four outdated dams along the Snake River, as a federal judge and the vast majority of stakeholders and scientists have called for.

The fact that these dams pose the greatest threat to the survival of Columbia basin salmon and steelhead is not seriously disputed. Judge Michael Simon, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, wrote in his May 2016 National Wildlife Federation, et al v. National Marine Fisheries Service, et al ruling:

More than 20 years ago, Judge Marsh [in a previous ruling] admonished that the Federal Columbia River Power System “cries out for a major overhaul.” Judge Redden, both formally in opinions and informally in letters to the parties, urged the relevant consulting and action agencies to consider breaching one or more of the four dams on the Lower Snake River. For more than 20 years, however, the federal agencies have ignored these admonishments[.]

[. . .]

The Federal Columbia River Power System remains a system that “cries out” for a new approach and for new thinking if wild Pacific salmon and steelhead, which have been in these waters since well before the arrival of homo sapiens, are to have any reasonable chance of surviving their encounter with modern man.

Republicans have been studiously ignoring the need for regional dam removal despite these rulings and the consistent urging of experts. Instead of removing outdated dams, Beutler’s bill amends the Marine Mammal Protection Act to permit the “taking,” or killing, of “10 percent of the annual potential biological removal level,” which currently stands at 9,200 California sea lions.

As Gary Dorr, Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe General Council, will testify tomorrow morning as a representative of the group Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, “You can kill all the sea lions you want to – and we have already been killing the most problematic sea lions – but unless we summon the courage to act on the best scientific information and finally address the very significant impacts of the hydroelectric dams on our salmon, they will not come back.”

“If you want to address salmon mortality in the Columbia and Snake river basins, you have to take care of the real problem, not just kill more sea lions,” Kevin Lewis, executive director of Idaho Rivers United, said today of Republicans’ refusal to act. “Since dams were built on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington State in the 1960s and 1970s, Idaho’s salmon populations crashed and remain in danger of extinction today. The real focus of this committee should be the low-value dams on the lower Snake River that are costing taxpayers and rate payers tens of billions of dollars and providing little value in return.”

“We keep telling the Republicans we have met the enemy of the salmon and steelhead, and the enemy is us,” Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said today. “Somehow, when Republicans look in the mirror, they see sea lions.”

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