October 1, 2019
By Michael Karp, Lopez Island
I have been distraught that the OPALCO board decided to adopt a resolution on September 19 that opposes the best chance our Southern resident orcas have to avoid extinction here in their home of the Salish Sea. OPALCO, the only utility that has a service area exclusively in the Salish Sea, was evidently swayed by their conservative energy association and voted recently to oppose breaching the dams, the best chance salmon have of getting to the Salish Sea and into the mouths of Orcas for much-needed nutrition. Additionally, in their arrogance, included in the vote was to not further study the removal of the dams as recommended by Governor Inslee’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force report. This vote took place without meaningful outreach to the OPALCO membership about our opinion.
ECONorthwest has a recent comprehensive analysis about breaching the four lower Snake River Dams and the huge positive economic benefit for the region in doing so. There would be a very significant net gain financially from breaching the dams even after costs of removal, energy replacement, paying off irrigators and transportation from the river. But most importantly, the best chance of survival for the Salish Sea’s resident orcas is protecting their primary food source: salmon.
Econorthwest’s report states that “the primary argument for removing the dams is to benefit endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead native to the river, as well as the ecosystems that depend on them.” This report, the latest of many reports over many decades that have similar conclusions, can be found at https://econw.com/projects-collection/2019/7/29/lower-snake-river-dams-economic-tradeoffs-of-removal.
Please take the time to read the report and form your own opinions.
If you are as appalled as I am about both OPALCO’s action against our iconic cultural local species and the lack of effort to poll members on such a critical issue for our culture, economy, and our sense of urgency to do everything we can to save these orcas, then let your board members know how you feel and use your voting power to ensure there is a healthy outreach in the future on this and other compelling issues.