Four dams on the lower Snake River in Washington State generate hydropower and allow for regional agriculture and barge shipping to Portland OR. However, the dams impede the migration of local salmon populations ( Oncorhynchus spp .), which are in steep decline, and drastically impact the populations of salmon and orca whales, for whom salmon are a primary food source. For years, environmental groups have argued for breaching the dams; other interests counter that the dams are too critical to the economy of the region to lose; and federal agencies assert that the dams can remain and salmon populations will recover with mitigation techniques. Scientific and economic analyses, litigation, and elected officials’ efforts have not been able to move the issue towards a solution. Readers will examine the interests of primary actors in the issue, how they influence the policy process, the role of scientific and economic analyses, and possible approaches for resolving the issue.