The Yakama and Lummi nations called on federal leaders to remove John Day, The Dalles, and Bonneville dams.
Yakama, Lummi Nations' Historic Call for Dam Removal on Lower Columbia
On October 14, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Columbia Riverkeeper’s staff stood on the Columbia’s shores at Celilo Park and watched history in the making. Yakama Nation, supported by Lummi Nation, announced a bold vision: a Columbia River teeming with salmon, a restored Celilo Falls, and a United States that honors treaties with tribal nations. The Yakama and Lummi nations called on federal leaders to remove John Day, The Dalles, and Bonneville dams.
Yakama Nation Chairman, JoDe Goudy, stated, “The Columbia River dams were built on this false legal foundation [the doctrine of discovery], and decimated the Yakama Nation’s fisheries, traditional foods, and cultural sites.”
Salmon—and the people and orcas that depend on salmon—are in crisis.
Riverkeeper stands in solidarity with Yakama and Lummi nations. We support the tribes’ defense of their treaty rights, including their vision of a free-flowing lower Columbia River.
For Riverkeeper, it comes down to this: the decades-long effort to recover endangered salmon is not working. The Columbia River is too hot for salmon survival. The stagnant reservoirs behind the dams create dangerously hot water. Climate change is pushing the river over the edge. Year after year, the river gets hotter. The system is broken.
Dam removal is a complex issue that will require intense analysis and must ensure solutions for clean and reliable electricity and transportation. In the decades ahead, society must innovate to replace the dams with truly clean energy, transport cargo to ocean ports, and save salmon runs from extinction. What about flood control? The three lower Columbia dams are “run-of-the-river” dams and do not provide significant flood control, unlike large storage dams in British Columbia.
Re-powering the Pacific Northwest with wind, solar, and battery storage will create local jobs for decades. This transition will take time, and it’s smart to start planning today. The dams are destroying salmon runs, orcas, and cultures that depend on salmon. And hydropower is not cheap anymore; wind and solar are becoming more affordable than electricity from dams. In this age of extinction and climate change, we must take bold action.
When was the last time you were asked to imagine the unimaginable? Imagine a free-flowing Columbia coursing through the Gorge. Imagine record salmon runs returning year after year. Imagine the roar of Celilo Falls, which some still remember.
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