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River advocate: Removing dams won't help orcas, environment, economy

LEWISTON, Idaho — Removing four dams from the Snake River won't help orcas, salmon, the environment or the economy, the head of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association says.

Kristin Meira, executive director of the association, which includes ports, businesses, public agencies and individuals that depend on the region's rivers, cited figures from federal agencies to counter environmental groups' arguments for breaching the dams as she spoke Jan. 18 in Lewiston, Idaho.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently announced his support for a $1.1 billion orca-rescue plan that includes $750,000 for another look at breaching the dams on the Lower Snake River.

The number of orcas in that population peaked at 200 in the 1960s, Meira said.

"Catastrophic" orca declines were due to shooting them before the 1960s because they interfered with commercial fishing. More than 40 orcas were also captured alive for aquariums in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving 71 by 1976. There are 74 today.

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