Oregon, tribes and feds unite to improve Columbia River conditions for salmon population

Good Samaritan saves fisherman’s life near Wallula Junction - Columbia River
Sunset on the Columbia River at Port Wallula.

WASHINGTON — Backed by leaders from state, local, tribal and federal government, members of the Biden Administration have filed an agreement focused on improving operations along the Columbia River Basin. With differing methods, each group involved with the agreement hopes to preserve the region’s natural resources including territorial fish population and sources of hydropower.

According to an alert from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the agreement was formally filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon on October 21, 2021.

This agreement was reached through a collaborative effort between the federal government, the Oregon government, Nez Perce Tribe, and a coalition of plaintiffs led by the National Wildlife Federation.

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“Today’s filing represents an important opportunity to prioritize the resolution of more than 20 years of litigation and identify creative solutions that improve conditions for salmon for years to come,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “While it is important to balance the region’s economy and power generation, it is also time to improve conditions for Tribes that have relied on these important species since time immemorial.”

These agreements include provisions regarding the preservation of the region’s natural fish populations, hydropower, transportation, and other important features of these eight dams in the Columbia River Basin.

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A crucial aspect of this agreement is a focus on protecting the salmon and steelhead populations from the Columbia River Basin. Recent reports suggest that 10 of the 14 threatened/endangered salmon and steelhead runs in Washington state are showing no signs of improving.

As Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo alludes to, high temperatures and consistent drought also harmed the population of these essential fish throughout the Summer of 2021.

“A healthy and vibrant Columbia River Basin is good for the economy and it’s good for the people of the Pacific Northwest,” Secretary Raimondo said. “The Columbia River Basin is essential to salmon and steelhead production on the West Coast, providing a key refuge for salmon and steelhead from the effects of climate change. Finding effective solutions to conserve and rebuild these species and their habitat is of critical importance to our work.”

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In order to identify and review critical issues and long-term solutions to challenges in the Columbia River system, the agreement asked the District Court to hold off on the litigation until the conclusion of July 2022. This way, community and federal leaders can work to come up with new creative approaches to their preservation efforts.

“For the sake of everyone who lives in the Northwest, it is time to chart a more sustainable path in the Columbia River Basin,” said White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory. “This agreement opens an opportunity for States, Tribes, Federal agencies, Congress, and all stakeholders to work together to forge enduring solutions that are so badly needed. The Administration is committed to reaching a long-term solution in the region to restore salmon, honoring our commitments to Tribal Nations, ensuring reliable clean energy, and addressing the needs of stakeholders.”

The initial stage of action has taken place—now it’s up to these groups to put in the work to improve conditions for the Northwest’s salmon population.

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