July 23rd, 2024

US government, for the 1st time, details how Northwest dams devastated the region’s Native tribes

By Gene Johnson, The Associated Press on June 18, 2024.

FILE - Water moves through a spillway of the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River near Almota, Wash., April 11, 2018. The U.S. government on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, acknowledged for the first time the harms that the construction and operation of dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest have caused Native American tribes, issuing a report that details how the unprecedented structures devastated salmon runs, inundated villages and burial grounds, and continue to severely curtail the tribes' ability to exercise their treaty fishing rights. (AP Photo/Nicholas K. Geranios, File)

SEATTLE (AP) – The U.S. government on Tuesday acknowledged for the first time the harms that the construction and operation of dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest have caused Native American tribes.

It issued a report that details how the unprecedented structures devastated salmon runs, inundated villages and burial grounds, and continue to severely curtail the tribes’ ability to exercise their treaty fishing rights.

The Biden administration’s report comes amid a $1 billion effort announced earlier this year to restore the region’s salmon runs before more become extinct – and to better partner with the tribes on the actions necessary to make that happen. That includes increasing the production and storage of renewable energy to replace hydropower generation that would be lost if four dams on the lower Snake River are ever breached.

“President Biden recognizes that to confront injustice, we must be honest about history ““ even when doing so is difficult,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory said in a written statement. “In the Pacific Northwest, an open and candid conversation about the history and legacy of the federal government’s management of the Columbia River is long overdue.”

The document was a requirement of an agreement last year to halt decades of legal fights over the operation of the dams. It lays out how government and private interests in early 20th century began walling off the tributaries of the Columbia River, the largest in the Northwest, to provide water for irrigation or flood control, compounding the damage that was already being caused to water quality and salmon runs by mining, logging and salmon cannery operations.

Tribal representatives said they were gratified with the administration’s formal, if long-belated, acknowledgement of how the U.S. government for generations ignored the tribe’s concerns about how the dams would affect them, and they were pleased with its steps toward undoing those harms.

Share this story:

7
-6
Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments