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Salmon could make a comeback if lower Snake River dams are breached, new research finds

Researchers from Oregon State University and ODFW say breaching four dams along the Snake River could help recover salmon and steelhead population.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — For decades, the Chinook salmon population has been dwindling along the Columbia River. Now a team of scientists is hoping that changes to four dams along the Snake River will help them thrive again.

The Snake River stretches for more than a thousand miles and is the largest tributary of the Columbia River. Researchers with Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have just finished a study that suggests breaching four dams along the Snake River can help with the recovery of salmon and steelhead.

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Adam Storch works as an analyst for ODFW, and he says that opening up this route for fish would require the removal of some rock and sand that lies around the four dams along the lower Snake River. Those dams are the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite.

“They are embankments basically, so the idea is to basically remove those embankments so the water can flow around the dam,” said Storch.

The longer these fish spend trying to get through the dams, the higher risks they face — including from disease. Storch added that making an easier route for fish is a huge driver of survival for the salmon.

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The research done by Oregon State University and ODFW comes on the heels of a similar study done by NOAA. The agency's report recommends breaching one or more of the Snake River hydroelectric dams as well. So far the Biden administration, which would have to approve any breaching of the dams, has not made any decisions on how to move forward.

RELATED: Electricity, irrigation could be replaced if Snake River dams are breached, report finds

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