FILE: Snake River Dams

The Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River is seen in 2019 from the air near Colfax, Wash. 

(The Center Square) - Washington State Democrats will call for four Lower Snake River dams to be removed as part of their campaign platform in 2022 elections and beyond.  

The 534-75 vote at the bi-annual convention last weekend in Tacoma favored breaching the dams as one way to boost the salmon population.

Supporters cited a recent draft report commissioned by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee outlining how the dams, completed in 1975, have altered the flow of the river making it more difficult for salmon to spawn.

As a result, the report contends the salmon population has declined by 90% from pre-dam levels.

Removing the dams would bring a number of benefits, according to the report, including draining the reservoirs on the river making it easier for salmon and other fish to migrate. The move would also benefit several of the state's tribes people by improving their salmon harvest and restoring about 34,000 acres of tribal land obliterated by the dams.

Restoring salmon fisheries in the Columbia Basin would also generate up to 25,000 new jobs and add $1 billion a year to the economy, the report said.

However, dissenters at the convention said the estimated $10.3 to $27 billion price tag to replace the electricity generated by the dams needed further study before a decision was made. In addition, the argued that low-emission transportation of goods and irrigation for farmers also needed to be given more consideration.

Staff Reporter

RaeLynn Ricarte is the author of two books and an award-winning editor and reporter with more than 25 years in the newsroom. She now covers government in Eastern Washington for The Center Square.