Lower Granite Dam

Lower Granite Dam.  Photo: USACE

LAPWAI - The Nez Perce Tribe has joined the State of Oregon and conservation and fishing group plaintiffs in asking the federal court for the District of Oregon to require specific measures at federal dams on the Lower Snake and mainstem Columbia River dams. A Nez Perce Tribe statement says the action is to assist imperiled salmon as they "navigate through the gauntlet of reservoirs on their migration to the ocean."  The Tribe says recent analysis shows that many populations of wild Snake River spring-summer Chinook salmon and steelhead populations are facing an extinction crisis.

“Our salmon are in crisis. There’s simply no other way to describe the current circumstances,” said Nez Perce Tribe Chairman, Samuel N. Penney. “Bold action to save our salmon and honor our treaties is urgent and overdue. Snake River salmon and steelhead need a river – not a series of warm pools. We must make these reservoirs on the Lower Snake and mainstem Columbia less lethal immediately, simply to ensure the future existence of these fish. These stopgap measures are critical actions that our salmon need to survive while we work with the Administration and Congress to ensure salmon do not go extinct on our watch.”

Dam removal supporters say Snake River spring and summer Chinook salmon are closer to extinction than ever, pointing to an analysis that indicates that 42% of the populations of Snake River spring/summer Chinook are – right now – at or below the “quasi-extinction” level of 50 or less spawners on the spawning grounds for four consecutive years. The analysis suggests that by 2025, 77% of these populations are projected to hit this level.

“The United States has a Treaty obligation to the salmon and to us. The comprehensive approach to restoring the Lower Snake River and investing in a stronger, better Northwest that Congressman Simpson has championed in the Columbia Basin Initiative offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – not just for the salmon but for the energy, transport, and irrigation sectors as well,” stated Nez Perce Tribe Vice-Chairman, Shannon Wheeler. “Salmon need a river now more than ever. With a warming climate, and with the resources and funding that a comprehensive framework like the Columbia Basin Initiative provides, this transition can occur in a way that salmon and all of the other sectors come out as winners.”

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the Nez Perce Tribe recently co-hosted a two-day Salmon-Orca Summit. During the Summit Northwest Tribes emphasized their support for Congressman Simpson's plan that includes removal of the four Lower Snake River dams.