The Orca Recovery Task Force recommendations released 10.24.2018

include two necessary for Southern Resident orca survival

Comments due October 29, 2018

Content courtesy of Save Our Wild Salmon re-posted with permission.


"The Orca Task Force must strengthen and adopt key recommendations …”

A few weeks ago, tens of thousands raised their voices and joined Tahlequaha, a grieving mother orca, and her family in sending a clear message to Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and the Orca Recovery Task Force: 

Orcas are starving because their main food source, Chinook salmon, has declined to levels nearing extinction.

In response, the Orca Recovery Task Force (ORTF) just issued revised recommendations that include two actions scientists say are essential for Southern Resident orca survival:

#8 - Increased 'spill' at federal dams in the Columbia Basin

#9 - Development of a plan to remove the four lower Snake River dams

Please find details for recommendations #8 and #9 below. As part of a regional plan, these two urgent responses are required to revive Chinook salmon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers as quickly as possible.

ORTF has opened a very short five-day public comment period: Oct. 25 - Oct. 29, 2018.

Some of ORTF's 36 recommendations may be eliminated in the days ahead.  

Please help to ensure that meaningful action on spill and lower Snake River dam removal are among the final recommendations ORTF delivers to Governor Inslee just a few weeks from now.

Scientists suggest that increased 'spill' and lower Snake River dam removal are two of the most beneficial actions we can take to increase salmon abundance for orcas, especially during the critical months of winter.

Based on the evident, please encourage Governor Inslee and ORTF to prioritize Recommendations #8 and #9 in order to revive Chinook salmon populations in the Snake and Columbia Rivers.

RECOMMENDATION #8 Increased Spill to 125%

Immediate action that increases the amount of water 'spilled' at all eight lower Snake and Columbia River dams. Increased spill helps to ensure the survival of baby salmon migrating to the ocean in spring and their return as adults.

Implementation details:
The Department of Ecology should move to immediately eliminate the current 115 percent standard for the forebay of the eight dams on the lower Snake and lower Columbia rivers and adjust total dissolved gas allowances to up to 125 percent, as measured at tail races. The intent is to create flexibility to adjust spill regimes, using the best available science, to benefit Chinook salmon and other salmonids. The Department of Ecology should work as expeditiously as possible with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to align at this level. Any new spill levels tested through this flexibility in spill regimes should be monitored and adaptively managed to minimize any negative effects on resident and anadromous fish species.

RECOMMENDATION #9 Lower Snake River Dam Removal planning

( discussion 11.6.2018 )

Begin strategic planning for removal of the four lower Snake River dams and restoration of the river by convening all stakeholders to develop a just transition plan.

Potential implementation details: 
Governor Inslee should work in conjunction with the states of Idaho and Oregon to hire a neutral third party for convening a forum for all stakeholders to develop a regional approach to understanding stakeholder needs, and the costs, benefits, risks, and other concerns related to the possible removal of the four Lower Snake River dams. 

The work would draw on existing information where possible and address the following: 
•   Decision-making process for dam removal (e.g., who has the authority, funding). 
•   Timeline for projected salmon recovery and benefits to Southern Resident orca in both short and long term. As well, potential changes in hatchery production. 
•   Required infrastructure mitigations including: 
        -- Transportation (replacing barges) 
        --  Power (e.g.,clean energy replacement,storage and timing of energy availability) 
        --  Sedimentation impacts of dam removal (including potential impacts on spawning beds) 
        --  Irrigation 

The third party should update Governor Inslee and ORTF on its progress by summer 2019 and should complete its work by spring 2020 in time to inform decisions resulting from development of the Environmental Impact Statement for Snake and Columbia River dams.

Along with all of the 36 ORTF Recommendations, these scientifically-prioritized ORTF recommendations can be read in full in this PDF.


and take these three simple steps:

  • First, indicate you "STRONGLY SUPPORT" Draft Recommendations #8 (increased spill) and #9 (dam removal planning) by clicking the appropriate button.

  • Next, include #8 and #9 among your TOP 5 PRIORITY RECOMMENDATIONS.

  • Last, review the message below, COPY and PASTE it into the *comment box* at the end of the online comment form as you see fit while adding your own personal message about why helping critically endangered orcas and Chinook salmon matters to you.


    Dear Governor Inslee and Members of the Orca Task Force:

    The science is clear. And the time is now.

    Scientists suggest that increased spill and lower Snake River dam removal are two of the most promising actions to increase salmon abundance.

    In order to revive chinook salmon and help save Southern Resident orca from extinction, the four lower Snake River dams need to be removed.

    Please establish a forum for all stakeholders to develop (1) a transition plan for removal of the four lower Snake River dams toward restoration of the river and its imperiled salmon populations and (2) a sensible timeline for implementing this action.

    Please also ask the Washington Department of Ecology to immediately change state water quality standards to increase the amount of water that can be spilled at the dams during the 2019 spring juvenile salmon migration months as a critical interim measure to immediately help salmon and orca until the dams are removed. These new standards need allow total dissolved gas levels up 125% of saturation.

    Thank you.

Request for comments content courtesy of Save Our Wild Salmon revised and re-posted with permission.


“The Southern Residents are strictly fish eaters, consuming as much as 386 pounds of fish a day, and pregnant females need even more. They have a distinct culture, including their own language. Theirs is a matriarchal culture, with the oldest female leading each pod.”

FAQ: A primer on the Pacific Northwest’s critically endangered killer whales

Lynda V. Mapes, The Seattle Times