Sustainable Business Consulting

Dammed to Extinction: Making a Business Case for Protecting Local Orcas

If you were to ask me what my favorite part of living in the Pacific Northwest is, my answer would be simple. The Southern Resident Killer Whales. Being able to hear and feel the “woosh” of the orca’s breath from shore, be in awe of their massive size but also observe the gentleness they display towards their own family units, much like how we are, is a beautiful and humbling thing.

Despite being at the top of the food chain, these orcas are starving in front of our eyes.

A new documentary, “Dammed to Extinction,” premiered this month, describing how the endangered Southern Resident orca population are down to only 75 whales as a result of starvation. The film made a compelling case, as well as a strong business case, for why we should breach the lower four aging Snake River dams now. Breaching the four Snake River dams would mean providing 2.5x the present level of salmon production, allowing more fish into the water for the orca.

The story of the orca population is not unlike our own, where the dangerous, non-sustainable decisions of some deeply impact others who may not have their voices heard. Recently, TIME magazine’s cover focused on climate change and disaster displacement, and how leaders of sinking countries are working to stop climate change. The disconnect between the world’s largest polluters and those bearing the brunt of these decisions is enormous.

Business Case

“If a private entity, rather than the Corps of Engineers, owned those dams, you’d have a backhoe up there taking them down tomorrow afternoon.” – Tony Jones, Energy Economics, Rocky Mountain Econometrics

The filmmaker, Michael Peterson, grew up in the Tri-Cities and isn’t just another “environmentalist” with a bone to pick, but someone who understands how these big decisions could affect his community. Peterson and other scientists and experts across the Northwest showed that not only are the dams unnecessary and damaging to local orca populations, they’re also bleeding money from the Bonneville Power Administration.

A few examples of the business case for taking down the dams, as researched by the coalition Save Our Wild Salmon:

  • The four lower dams are considered unreliable sources of power compared to others in the area – the four dams produce the amount of electricity utilities expect to be generated during a drought year.
  • Renewable energy and conservation can satisfy load growth in the Northwest instead.
  • Studies show that removing the dams will be cheaper in the long run. Currently, Federal taxpayers spend $10 billion on salmon recovery efforts for little return, whereas $1.6-$4.6 billion can be saved with the removal.

What now?

What will we do as a society to care for the ones that do not have a say? It is our responsibility to ensure the survival of all living amongst us. What will you do?

See the trailer for Dammed to Extinction here

Another recommended documentary: DamNation

Scroll to Top