Tribes Optimistic About Returning Salmon to Upper Columbia Basin

By Tom Banse

Hydropower dams built without fish ladders have blocked migratory fish from the upper reaches of the Columbia and Snake Rivers for decades. Tribal leaders from across the region gathered for the past two days (Weds.-Thurs.) in Portland to strategize how to return salmon to their full historic range. The meeting ended on an optimistic note.

Northwest American tribes and Canadian First Nations presented a united front to restore salmon above Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia and to southern Idaho via the Snake River. Shoshone-Bannock tribal chairman Nathan Small says on this he’s long felt like he was beating his head on a wall.

Nathan Small: “Now I feel maybe my head is going to raise a little bit because there is that possibility to be talked about.”

Tribes and other fish advocates see opportunity to gain traction in two forums. One is the federal relicensing of Idaho Power’s Hells Canyon dams. The other is the pending renegotiation of the 50-year-old Columbia River Treaty between the U.S. and Canada. But stumbling blocks remain. Those include ratepayer objections to the cost of getting salmon around very tall dams and degraded spawning habitat upstream.


Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission “Future Of Our Salmon” Conference:

Previous N3 coverage (March 19, 2014):

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