America thrived by choking its rivers with dams. Now it’s time to undo the damage.

Dams fueled america’s growth by choking its rivers. Is it time to restore nature’s infrastructure? The fish is nearly three feet long, and as it swims unhurriedly past the viewing window in Lower Granite Dam, Theresa Wilson glances up from her knitting. “Chinook,” she says, tapping her computer keyboard once to record its passage. The salmon pauses as if to be admired. Its mottled scales flash as it moves against the current of the Snake River. Then it darts away, bound upstream to the place where it was born. Salmon and trout are anadromous: They hatch in rivers, spend their lives at sea, then return to their birthplaces to reproduce and die. Here on the Snake in eastern Washington, that means traversing four hydroelectric dams, an arduous undertaking few complete. The Lower Granite is the last barrier between this chinook and its spawning grounds. It is one of 13 salmon and trout species in the Pacific Northwest that the federal government lists as threatened or endangered. The concrete and steel structure in its way stands 151 feet tall and spans a gorge, its turbines sending froth churning downstream. Clearing the wall requires that a swimmer ascend a spiral structure […]

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