It's Not a 'Silver Bullet' but Removing These Dams Is Critical for Salmon Habitats
This summer, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and partners will remove five dams restoring 73 miles of Chinook salmon habitat.
The Middle Fork Nooksack Dam, seen here before it's removal, will restore access to 16 miles of critical salmon habitat. Photo courtesy American Rivers.
How many dams are coming down this summer?
We’re supporting the removal of 5 dams this summer, two in Washington and three in Oregon. There’s a pretty wide range between them in terms of location, function, and appearance. All told, the projects will restore 73 miles of Chinook habitat, and over 100 miles of habitat for other salmonids, lamprey and bulltrout.
Tell us more about a specific project.
We’re partnering with the Tulalip Tribes of Washington and City of Snohomish to remove the Pilchuck River Dam. The Pilchuck River is the main tributary of the Snohomish River, one of the primary producers of salmon in Puget Sound. Removing the Pilchuck Dam will restore 37 miles of salmon habitat, protect local landowners from flooding, and open up on third of the Pilchuck for salmon access.
Will removing these dams make a difference? Will they help save the Southern Resident population?
I think one thing to be clear about is that unfortunately there’s not one silver bullet solution that will save the Southern Resident Killer Whales. Lack of food supply is a huge issue, but they also are struggling with the impacts of toxic pollutants and noise pollution. And there’s still a lot we don’t know – including some of the ways climate change might be a factor in their decline. But increasing the supply of Chinook salmon is an important piece of the puzzle. We’ve seen ecosystems come back to life after dam removal, such as what is happening on the Elwha, and time is of the essence.
Anything else you’d like to share?
This work is one part of a larger whole when it comes to ecosystem recovery. The more we think of things being interconnected, I think the more effective we can be in supporting restoration and recovery. As with the two projects we’ve talked about here, there is ample opportunity partner with others to think about ecosystem recovery that benefits our environment and people.