Lower Snake River Dams, Nez Perce Treaty Rights at Issue
LEWISTON, Idaho – Nez Perce tribe members believe the best way to restore salmon and steelhead to their Idaho communities is by breaching the four Lower Snake River dams.
Tomorrow, members of the tribe will be in Lewiston for an informal public hearing on what federal agencies should do in order to protect endangered fish populations in the Snake River.
Elliott Moffett, president of Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, a nonprofit that defends the treaty rights and lands of the Nez Perce tribe, said federal agencies have not been able to come up with a viable way to help salmon on the river.
"All of these other methods and alternatives have been tried to date, and the fish are not returning," he said. "So as tribal members we cannot exercise our treaty rights to fish, for an example, and utilize the salmon as we have in our past, in our culture and tradition."
In the past, dam managers have used fish ladders and other methods to try to help salmon up the river. Nez Perce members say the Treaty of 1855 guarantees their fishing rights on the Snake River. Supporters of the dams say they provide a source of clean energy and allow barge transportation for crops.
A court ruling in May set in motion the current round of public hearings in Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon on what to do with the Lower Snake River dams, and the federal judge who issued the ruling has told agencies that breaching the dams must be an option.
Moffett said salmon are at risk from a combination of climate change and the effects from the dams, and that after the recent presidential election, a decision needs to be made soon to save the salmon.
"We believe that there's going to be reductions in climate-change policies," he added. "We oppose that, and so we think now is the time to act and we hope to be gathering others' support on this issue as well."
Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment has started a petition online to gather support for removing the dams. The public hearing in Lewiston is tomorrow (Wed., Nov. 16) at the Red Lion Hotel from 4 to 7 P.M.