Northwest tribes: Remove Columbia River dams
and News 10/15/19
THE DALLES (AP)
— Two prominent Pacific Northwest tribes said Monday the
U.S. government needs to remove three major hydroelectric
dams on the Columbia River to save migrating salmon and
starving orcas and restore traditional fishing sites that
were guaranteed to the tribes in a treaty more than 150
Nation and the Lummi Nation made the demand on Indigenous
People’s Day, a designation that’s part of a trend to move
away from a day honoring Christopher Columbus.
said at a news conference along the Columbia River that the
Treaty of 1855, in which 14 tribes and bands ceded 11.5
million acres to the United States, was based on the
inaccurate belief that the U.S. had a right to take the land
because of a Christian mandate.
treaty, the Yakama Tribe retained the right to fish at all
their traditional sites. But the construction of the massive
concrete dams along the lower Columbia River between the
1930s and 1960s to generate power for a booming non-native
population destroyed critical fishing spots and made it
impossible for salmon to complete their migration.
River dams were built on this false legal foundation and
decimated the Yakama Nation’s fisheries, traditional foods
and culture sites,” Yakama Nation Chairman JoDe Goudy said
near the site of now-vanished Celilo Falls near The Dalles,
was a traditional salmon-fishing site for the Yakama for
centuries, but it was swallowed by the river in 1957 after
the construction of Dalles Dam.
There have been
calls by environmentalists and others over the years to
remove Columbia River dams, an idea opposed by agricultural
and business interests.
The three dams
operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are a critical
part of a complex hydroelectric network strung along the
Columbia and Snake rivers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho
that powers the entire region.
officials were unavailable for further comment Monday due to
Nation is located in northwestern Washington state, far from
the Columbia River, but it has also been touched by
construction of the dams, said Jeremiah Julius, Lummi Nation
are the preferred prey of endangered orcas but just about 70
orcas remain in the Pacific Northwest — the lowest number in
three decades — because of a lack of chinook, as well as
toxic contamination and vessel noise. The orcas were hunted
for generations by the Lummi Nation in the Salish Sea for
food, he said.
“We are in a
constant battle ... to leave future generations a lifeway
promised our ancestors 164 years ago, he said. “Our people
understand that the salmon, like the orca, are the miner’s
canary for the health of the Salish Sea and for all its
Dam was constructed in the mid-1930s and generates enough
electricity to power about 900,000 homes — roughly the size
of Portland, Oregon. Dalles Dam followed in the 1950s and
John Day Dam was constructed in the 1960s.
groups applauded the tribes’ demand and said efforts to save
salmon without removing the dams aren’t working because
without the free flow of the Columbia, the entire river
ecosystem is out of balance.
reservoirs behind the dams create dangerously hot water, and
climate change is pushing the river over the edge. Year
after year, the river gets hotter,” said Brett VandenHeuvel,
executive director for the nonprofit group Columbia
Riverkeeper. “The system is broken, but we can fix it.”
built into the dams allow for the passage of migrating
salmon and migrating fish are hand-counted as they pass
through. But the number of salmon making the arduous journey
to the Pacific Ocean and back to their natal streams has
declined steeply in recent decades.
River Basin once produced between 10 million and 16 million
salmon a year. Now there are about 1 million a year.
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