A Crucial Few Days to Help Orca and Speak Out Against Dirty Coal

Critically endangered orcas in the Pacific Northwest rely on a diet almost exclusively of salmon that swim into the Puget Sound from fresh waters like the Columbia River. Sadly, the once thriving Pacific salmon that return every year to the rivers and streams of the Northwest have been decimated due to habitat loss.

Orca breaching in the San Juan Islands on the Pacific Northwest coast. Southern Resident orca pods frequent the San Juan Islands from April – October. Photo by twphotos.
Now, wildlife advocates are racing against the clock to stop a coal export terminal proposed for the shoreline of the Columbia River in Longview, Washington that would devastate the ecosystem salmon and orcas depend on.  Thousands have attended public hearings across the Northwest—pressing officials to say no to coal export terminals in the region and voicing their opposition to dirty coal before the environmental commenting period is closed to the public on November 18th.

Orca and the Columbia River

During the spring, summer and fall, the orcas—whose numbers have dwindled to less than 90—are spotted in and near Washington’s Puget Sound and northward along the coast towards Vancouver Island and British Columbia, Canada. During the winter months, researchers have tracked the orcas traveling down the coast and to the mouth of the Columbia River with studies indicating the orcas are feeding primarily on Chinook salmon.

It is known that the famed upper Columbia/Snake River Chinook salmon gather in the salt water at the mouth of the river in the winter and spring.  Once plentiful, habitat destruction has taken a toll on this mainstay of the orca diet.

The Devastating Effects of Dirty Coal

Orcas are highly social and often travel in groups of up to 40-50. Photo by NOAA.
If the proposed export terminal for Longview, Washington goes forward, it will be the second largest coal terminal in the nation and will take a terrible toll on orca, salmon and other wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. Coal will be strip mined in Montana and Wyoming and carried down through the Columbia Gorge in open rail cars, spewing coal dust onto sensitive habitat areas. At the export terminal, coal dust would billow into the Columbia River from towering piles of coal and enormous cargo ships would converge on the fragile marine habitats that salmon and orcas depend on for survival.  Even after the coal is burned overseas, the toxic mercury pollution from burning is known to travel long distances and can end up back to our shores—polluting our waters, fish and wildlife.

By voicing opposition to the terminal and its impacts on sensitive habitat, you can help stop dirty coal in the Pacific Northwest and safeguard orcas, salmon and other wildlife that live in or near the Columbia River Basin.

We only have a few more days to weigh in on behalf of orcas before the November 18 deadline!

Take Action ButtonPlease urge the Army Corps of Engineers to say no to the terminal proposed for the shoreline of the Columbia River in Longview, Washington.