Thursday May 23, 2024

Spokane Public Radio

Three Northwest tribes and federal agencies are getting closer to understanding how to revive Chinook and sockeye salmon runs on the upper Columbia River that were once among the most abundant in the world but were decimated by dams over the last century.

Leaders from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the Spokane Tribe of Indians met with leaders from three federal agencies and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council in Portland on Wednesday to discuss progress on their historic agreement from last September. The 20-year plan, separate from a related deal signed in December, marked the culmination of decades of work by the tribes, who were deprived of salmon following the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam near Spokane in 1938 and Chief Joseph Dam in Bridgeport, Washington, in 1955. The fish have historically been central to their way of life.

The tribal and federal agency leaders discussed a range of subjects, from acquiring the needed fish from hatcheries and moving them via truck to areas blocked by the dams. The Biden administration said it would allocate $200 million to the effort, but the parties agreed even more money would be needed. Officials and tribes face challenges working with Canadian dams and hatcheries as well as competing interests for the Columbia’s water from hydroelectric and agriculture.

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