Podcast | The fight to save Snake River salmon from extinction

Salmon in the Pacific Northwest have been on the decline. Two advocates tell how breaching the dams along the river could restore the population.

Aerial view of a dam

The Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River is seen from the air near Colfax, Wash., on May 15, 2019. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Salmon are integral to Pacific Northwest culture and have been for a very long time. Many generations before images of salmon filled Seattle gift shops, Native tribes relied on the fish for sustenance, and they still do today.

But the salmon populations that return to the rivers here during their spawning runs are a fraction of what they used to be, and they appear to be sliding toward extinction. 

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In recent years, a movement to reverse that depopulation has gained steam. It has  focused on the dams along the Snake River, which stand as a major obstruction to the salmon. But the dams have also served as sources of hydroelectric power, which is something else that has more recently become woven into the culture of the Pacific Northwest. So removing those dams is no easy task. 

For this episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast, retired environmental journalist Rocky Barker sits down with two people who would like to see those dams breached — Dr. Helen Neville and Washington Environmental Council CEO Alyssa Macy — to talk about what is at stake and where the movement stands now.

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