FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 7, 2021
SEATTLE—Nearly 60% of Washington voters support a plan to remove the lower Snake River dams to prevent salmon extinction that also includes investments in clean energy, transportation for farm products, and irrigation. The finding comes from a recent poll of 800 voters in the state conducted by the Mellman Group.
“Voters understand the situation is urgent, and they want action,” said Mark Mellman, president and CEO of The Mellman Group. “Washington voters are determined that we cannot let salmon disappear, and that we can also take care of farm and energy needs at the same time.”
Fifty-eight percent of voters said they want stakeholders—businesses, scientists, farmers, tribes, and communities—to come together to create a plan that removes four dams on the lower Snake River.
Fifty-nine percent support that plan when it includes investments for clean energy, crops transportation and irrigation. Intensity of support for such a plan runs 2-1 over opposition: 38% strongly favor it, while 21% strongly oppose.
Across geography and political party, 62% said they are extremely worried about salmon going extinct in the state.
“The loss of salmon is an existential threat to Native Nations, fishers, business owners, and communities—and would trigger ecological devastation in our region,” said Alyssa Macy, CEO of Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters. “We must take decisive action to prevent extinction, including removal of dams on the lower Snake River and replacement of their benefits. If salmon no longer exist, who will we be?”
An estimated 7,000 wild spring chinook salmon returned this year to the Snake River Basin in 2021, according to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Fish Passage Center. The 10-year average is more than twice that number; the Columbia Basin Partnership recovery goal for this population is 127,000—more than 20 times this year’s return. Fewer than 3,000 adult steelhead have returned, the lowest return of steelhead since people began counting in 1938.
A study released this spring by fisheries scientists from the Nez Perce Tribe said nearly half of Snake River Chinook populations have crossed a threshold toward extinction.
In May, Washington Sen. Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee committed to leading a stakeholder engagement process to quickly develop a comprehensive regional plan that will save endangered Northwest salmon and orcas from extinction. Details of that process have yet to be released.
The poll, funded by the Water Foundation, was conducted in July and has a margin of error of ±3.5% at a 95% level of confidence.
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