Sample Letters to the Editor (LTEs)
The following letters to the editor have been submitted to news outlets by Broads in the Pacific Northwest. They serve here as examples. While the information in them is useable for writing new LTEs, please do not copy the letters word-for-word.
During the 1990s, under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed four Snake River salmon and steelhead species as threatened or endangered and recovery goals were set.
According to the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Department and the Fish Passage Center, the recovery goal for wild spring/summer chinook salmon is 80,000 returning adults over the uppermost of eight dams, the Lower Granite Dam west of Lewiston, Idaho. In 2017, only 4,108 wild chinook crossed Lower Granite.
The recovery goal for Snake River wild steelhead adults is 90,000. During 2017–2018, only 10,540 adults crossed Lower Granite.
The goal for Snake River sockeye is 2,500 wild adults per year. In 2018, thirteen wild sockeye reached their spawning grounds in Idaho’s Stanley Basin.
If your local Public Utility District purchases power from Bonneville Power Administration, its ratepayers (that’s you) have spent over $16 billion on Columbia Basin salmon/steelhead recovery—$700,000 per year. The result? Thirty-four fish scientists now state that unless the lower Snake River is returned to a natural flow, our threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead will go extinct.
It’s obvious: The time for bold action to enable salmon and steelhead to once again thrive is now.
If you combine the 2018 Snake River juvenile salmon survival and loss estimates cited by the Corps of Engineers (per dam), by NOAA (head of slackwater to Bonneville Dam’s tailrace), and by fish researchers (delayed mortality), we see total juvenile salmon survival ranges are a dismal 9.1% to 24.3%.
Once in the millions, now thousands, Snake River salmon teeter toward extinction, which also imperils inland and coastal families and communities relying on salmon for food or income.
I thank Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Idaho’s Governor Brad Little and Representative Mike Simpson for heeding real fish facts and pushing toward discussion and action regarding breaching the four aged, expensive, and moot lower Snake River (LSR) dams. Scientists state breaching these dams will provide the most needed boost not only to Snake River salmon survival, but also to southern resident orca survival. The orcas, too, are nearing extinction—due to lack of salmon.
For politicians, speaking truth can be risky. Recently, Rep. Simpson, in reference to the loss of Idaho’s iconic wild salmon runs said, “If you can’t defend what’s going on…then questions have to be asked.” Such as the question: What if the LSR dams were removed?
It’s time to answer.
The 2002 Corps of Engineers’ $31 million Lower Snake River Juvenile Salmon Migration Feasibility Study, aimed at recovering threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead, left lower Snake River dam breaching as the “best choice.” But the Corps merely modified the dams to enhance fish passage.
Seventeen years and a billion dollars later, juvenile survival through the Snake-Columbia’s eight dams and reservoirs has little improved.
Concurrently, barge shipments declined—no paper, pulp, lumber, logs, soybeans, lentils, chickpeas, or petroleum travel by barge today—transport is mostly grain, which has also declined by 45%. Growers increasingly use rail and taxpayer subsidies to buoy the river system.
Additionally, Northwest energy sourcing expanded, creating a 17% surplus, much generated by thirty-one dams. In 2008, surplus energy sold for $60 per Mwh; today it is closer to $20. Bonneville Power Administration, which markets power from those dams to Oregon, Washington, and Idaho Public Utility Districts is facing a fiscal cliff. The four lower Snake River dams produce less than 4% of the Northwest’s power. The loss of that power could easily be absorbed. These dams are aged, their turbines in need of $1 billion in rehabilitation, and they’re driving salmon and steelhead to extinction.
All northwesterners should be calling for removal of those four dams.