Tribal leaders from Washington and Oregon are calling on Congress and the Biden administration to remove the four dams on the Lower Snake River.
The tribal leaders sent a letter to the White House and to Congressional representatives in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. In it, they describe the salmon crisis as being at a breaking point. And they call the potential for extinction "a moral failure of the highest order."
They say salmon are inseparable from who the tribes are – and call on the U.S. leaders to honor tribal treaties with a bold, comprehensive plan to restore salmon – including the removal of four dams on the Lower Snake River. The dams create conditions such as warm water that are blamed for plummeting returns. They have fish ladders that allow some salmon and other species to migrate. But the vast majority of the fish die during the journey from their spawning grounds to the ocean and back.
The demand for dam removal comes after the appointment of the first Native American cabinet secretary – Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior – and after Idaho Republican Congressman Mike Simpson laid out a framework for a bipartisan plan for dam removal.
The letter was signed by members of Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Lummi Nation, the Makah Tribe, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, The Tulalip Tribes and the Yakama Nation.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Washington Republican, has introduced a bill calling for improved technology at dams and promoting hydropower as the future of clean energy.
Correction, 4/2/21: this story has been updated to reflect the fact that the Lower Snake River dams have fish passage. Details on juvenile fish survival can be found in the most recent Columbia River System Operations Final Environmental Impact Statement.