The problem of salmon recovery is a sharp contrast between challenger Rebecca Parson and incumbent Derek Kilmer in District 6.
The birds are bigger, their feathers full. The water has taken on a bright, healthy green-blue hue. Moose roam where they couldn’t before. Thousands of salmon swim upstream and spawn – instead of dying like they used to -. And the indigenous people discovered a legendary creation site that has been covered up for decades.
It almost sounds too good to be true. However, this is the story of the successful removal and restoration of the Elwha River in Washington, both for wildlife and for the people in Lower Elwha Klallam.
It is clear to me and a growing number of managers in our region that we should be diligent students of what has been achieved in Elwha. It’s time to move to break the Lower Snake River dams and ignite another environment.
Together with the Nez Perce, Lummi and Yakima tribes, the Port Angeles City Council recently joined a broad coalition to break through the dams. While it is noteworthy that the dams provide zero-emission hydropower, the Council rightly recognized that if we sacrifice huge ecosystems, it will destroy the purpose of combating climate change. The Council vote was 5 to 1.
How did my opponent, District 6 Congressman Derek Kilmer, respond to the Council’s call for action, jointly drafted by the Sierra Club and over 200 constituents? A mealy statement “I am grateful for the continued commitment” that showed no plan, no moral guidance and certainly no agreement on the need to break the dams.
District 6, with its rich history of seven Conservation Corps contingents during the Great Depression, deserves better than this approach of hiding in the back seat and waiting in Congress. There is no excuse for waffles or waiting. The truth is that we don’t have to choose between creating jobs, providing reliable clean energy, and protecting our environment.
According to an analysis by ECONNW, dam removal and river restoration would more than contribute 300 jobs annually in counties adjacent to the Lower Snake River for more than three decades. A 2018 study found that sun, wind, batteries and efficiency can replace the energy provided by the dams. We can protect inland shipping companies and farmers from economic damage with robust, targeted mitigation measures – similar to the “just transition” provisions in the Green New Deal that guarantee well-paid jobs for fossil fuel industry workers in a new clean energy economy.
It is no small thing. Remember that the Columbia River Basin was once one of the largest salmon producing river systems in the world. Today salmon in its largest tributary is threatened with extinction. The slow currents of the dammed river absorb heat and boil the salmon to death. In 2015, 250,000 adult sockeye salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers were wiped out by scorching water.
As a result, we see terrible stories of orcas starving in Puget Sound. Tribal families are denied a “first meal” – salmon that swim upriver were among the first foods that appeared in the spring – which is a key part of their livelihood, culture, and heritage.
What are we waiting for? “Will we be the generation that has forgotten those who come behind us – those who remain unborn?” JoDe Goudy, chairman of the Yakima Nation, asked. “Will we be the generation that has forgotten to speak for resources that cannot speak in a way that we can understand?”
I’m running for Congress because if it is up to Congressman Kilmer, we won’t be that generation. Now let’s act to break through the Lower Snake River Dams.
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