Simpson and his tribe talk about dam removal | North West

Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson said Wednesday his efforts to save wild Snake River salmon by breaking the four lower Snake River dams are alive and well despite not being included in federal legislation. on infrastructure.

The conservative Republican representing Idaho’s 2nd congressional district spoke at a salmon-killer whale webinar hosted by the Nez Perce Tribe and said that when his concept centered around dam removal and mitigation for Affected Communities and Industries was released a year ago, it saw the Biden administration’s infrastructure push as a timely vehicle.

But the $33.5 billion idea, known as the Columbia Basin Initiative, failed to garner early support from the administration and other members of the Pacific Northwest congressional delegation. and was not included in the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act. Some, like Republicans Cathy McMorris Rodges of Washington’s 5th congressional district and Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington’s 4th congressional district, lambasted Simpson for the plan and said the dams are critical infrastructure needed to produce affordable and reliable energy. and helping farmers bring crops to market. .

Despite the blowback, Simpson said he continues to tell people about the idea and believes it is gaining traction and will eventually become law. He urged listeners to do the same.

“These are what are called, in baseball terms, the August heat waves,” he said. “It’s long, hard work, but the long, hard work prepares you to win the championship in October.”

Wild salmon and rainbow trout returning to Idaho and parts of eastern Washington and northeastern Oregon are protected under the Endangered Species Act since the 1990s.

The tribe supported the removal of the dam for more than 20 years and were early supporters of Simpson’s plan. The Nez Percé leaders rallied support from other tribes in the Pacific Northwest and across the country. Last July, the tribe hosted the Salmon and Orca conference near Shelton, Wash., and continues to host a monthly series of speakers on the subject.

Wednesday’s edition, “No Fish Without Fish,” focused on the treaties that most Pacific Northwest tribes signed with the federal government in the mid-19th century, which reserved their fishing rights. with salmon and rainbow trout.

“These fishing rights don’t mean much if there are no fish,” Simpson said. “Especially if the fishery is in decline because of the actions we have taken.”

Erik Holt, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe Fish and Wildlife Commission, spoke about some of the federal actions that have reduced fish migrations, including building the vast system of hydroelectric and flood control projects. He specifically mentioned the Dalles Dam which choked off Celilo Falls – a traditional fishing site for several tribes on the Columbia River – and the Dworshak Dam which blocked spawning habitat for salmon and rainbow trout on the North Fork of the Clearwater River.

Holt also spoke about the work of the Nez Percé Tribe to restore salmon and protect their fishing rights. In 1980, tribal fishermen and the state of Idaho had a tense standoff in Rapid River. The state attempted to impose a fishing closure on the tribesmen due to the low number of fish. Tribal fishermen protested and took to the river with their dip nets to defend fishing rights and honor their traditions. Holt, a 10-year-old boy at the time, saw his grandfather and many other tribesmen arrested during the dramatic incident. He was scared and cried.

“Sonny, don’t cry. One day you will remember why I am going to jail,” Holt said, quoting his grandfather.

“I remember now why he went to jail,” Holt said. “He was fighting for our rights.”

In the 1990s, the tribe reintroduced coho salmon to the Clearwater River. This race now offers tribal and non-tribal fishing opportunities. More recently, the tribe has drawn attention to several wild spring chinook populations in the Salmon River that have been on a dangerously low trend in recent years.

“We want free flow (the lower Snake River) and we’ll do our part to keep up with Mr. Simpson,” Holt said.

This work, according to Holt, will bring benefits not only to the tribe, but to others who treasure the fish and rely on the economic activity the tracks can generate when healthy.

“Our treaties and what we do with them are for the good of all.”

Aaron Lieberman, executive director of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, said members of his organization and their customers have suffered economically and culturally from the loss of fishing opportunities as races have declined. He said 80% of outfitters and guides in the state live in small communities with populations of 500 people or less. When fish runs are healthy, places like Riggins, Salmon, Challis, Kooskia, and Kamiah benefit. When fish are absent, communities lose important income and an activity that makes rural Idaho an attractive place to live.

Lieberman believes the region and the country can find a way to remove dams, save fish, find other ways for farmers to get their crops to market, and produce affordable and reliable energy.

“We can do great things. We can do difficult things,” he said. “We can move mountains.

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