What would you pay to save salmon?

Credit: Credit: Scott Cushman

A new poll released by NRDC and its partners today found nearly four in five Washington voters say preventing the extinction of wild salmon in the state is “extremely” or "very important." Only 6 percent said saving wild salmon is "not too important" to them. The poll also found that seventy-four percent of voters would be willing to pay an extra dollar per month on their energy bill (and many would pay quite a bit more) to help save the fish.

The Columbia and Snake River Basin was once home to one of the greatest wild salmon runs on the planet. Today, returns of wild salmon are a tiny fraction of their historic levels. The collapse of our region’s salmon populations has had devastating impacts on communities that have depend on salmon for generations and the many species that rely on them too—including the Southern Resident killer whales. There are only 76 of these killer whales left. They eat salmon, and without them, they are slowly starving to death.

Credit: Credit: Holly Fearnbach, NOAA

Perhaps the single largest action we could take to quickly bring back large numbers of Chinook salmon, the killer whale’s favorite fish, is to retire a series of dams on the lower Snake River. People have been talking about retiring these four run-of-the river dams for decades. This new poll shows that support for lower Snake River dam removal is mounting.

More than half of Washington voters support removing the four dams on the lower Snake River. And, to save the fish, they’d be willing to pay a little something too. Seventy-four percent of voters said they would pay an extra dollar each month on their energy bill, if it meant we could help bring back these fish. Sixty-three percent said they’d pay up to seven dollars per month for fish!

The poll also found that there wasn’t much support for Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ bill (H.R. 3144) that seeks to prevent any changes to the management of the Snake River dams and to stop the current NEPA process that is reviewing the operation of the Columbia and Snake River hydrosystem. The bill doesn’t even get majority support inside her own district. A majority of voters in district oppose this legislation.

We are thankful for the Washington State leaders who have stood up strong for salmon and killer whales. Senator Patty Murray, Rep. Adam Smith, and Rep. Pramilla Jayapal recently sent a powerful letter opposing H.R. 3144 and calling for a fair process to consider all options for management of the federal Columbia and Snake river hydropower system. Washington Governor Jay Inslee created a new task force last week to focus local leaders on killer whale and salmon recovery. These actions are bold steps in the right direction.

Maybe no one person can change the fate of these two species. But all of us acting together, giving a little--perhaps a dollar a month?--could really change the landscape and the future.