Climate, environmental groups denounce state's approval of permit for pumped storage development that would permanently destroy sacred Tribal cultural properties.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
This is one of over a dozen permits the developer needs to build the controversial project.
May 22, 2023 (Klickitat County, WA)—The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) approved the water quality certification for the Goldendale Energy Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Project, proposed by Rye Development and backed by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (Rye). This is one of over a dozen permits the developer needs to build the controversial project.
The development, proposed near the Columbia River in Klickitat County, Washington, would be the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.
The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation (Yakama Nation) has opposed the development since its inception because it would obliterate irreplaceable tribal cultural resources, including archeological, ceremonial, petroglyph, monumental and ancestral use sites. The Nez Perce Tribe, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation also oppose the development due to impacts on Treaty-reserved rights and cultural resources. Earlier this year, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, composed of 57 tribal government members, and the National Congress of American Indians, the oldest and largest organization representing tribal governments, passed resolutions on an emergency basis for the protection of the site’s traditional cultural properties against development and to urge federal and state regulators to deny the project permits.
Many of the nation’s and state’s leading climate and environmental organizations oppose the development based on the significant impact to irreplaceable religious and cultural sites.
“Ecology’s decision is not the end of the road. The development flies in the face of Washington state’s and the Biden administration’s obligations and commitments to honor Treaty rights and consider environmental justice,” stated Lauren Goldberg, executive director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “Yakama Nation and other Columbia Basin Tribes led efforts to combat the climate crisis by preventing fossil-fuel infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest, and continue to lead efforts to develop clean-energy infrastructure where it does not destroy sacred sites. We stand in solidarity with Tribes in advocating for a just transition, which includes honoring Treaty rights.”
“A clean energy future must uphold federal trust and treaty obligations that consider the cultural and health impacts of these projects on sacred sites. These parts of our identity - the land, the roots, and the water - are a part of our collective history and we must not erase them,” said Alyssa Macy (citizen of Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon), CEO of Washington Conservation Action. “We call on the State of Washington’s leaders to use its own evaluation that affirms there is no way to mitigate or replace cultural and religious resources. We will continue to stand with the Yakama Nation to protect their sacred land and firmly oppose this project–if it harms Tribes, then it’s not clean energy.”
"Pumped storage is a critical tool in facilitating our transition to clean energy - however, the current siting of this project reinforces the exploitation of our tribal neighbors and should have been rejected," said Sept Gernez, Acting Director of the Washington State Sierra Club. "In order to ensure a truly just transition to clean energy and a healthy climate for all, we must transform our social systems and structures from an exploitative economy to a regenerative society built on sustainability and respect for the original stewards of this land. The Department of Ecology's decision comes at the expense of indigenous peoples - and demonstrates the need for improvement in their tribal consultation practices and a greater respect for tribal sovereignty."
“Electricity is a wonderous thing that runs our refrigerators and heats our homes, and yes, it’s essential to keep the electricity on. Also yes, we need to retire emission-producing generation, and yes again, pump storage technology is useful and has a place in the effort to move away from fossil fuels. More important than peak supplies of electricity, though, is paying attention to tribal knowledge of this particular place and how to live in it and with it, not exploit it,” said Pat Arnold, Board Member of Friends of the White Salmon. “It is best for all of us to respect that knowledge and wisdom, and to learn from it. That knowledge gives us many strong reasons why this site should not be developed and further damaged. We oppose this project, and we hope that discussions about siting energy projects generally will involve early and serious tribal consultation.”
Ecology’s environmental review also concluded that the development would have effects on golden eagles, little brown bats, smooth desert parsley and other rare plants without mitigation measures.
Ecology previously denied without prejudice Rye’s application for 401 certification in June 2021. There is a 30 day appeal process on Ecology’s decision.
The project area is within ceded Yakama Nation land and the area has historically been used by the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Bands of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, and the Nez Perce Tribe for hunting, traditional gathering, fishing, camping, and traditional ceremonies.
- Yakama Nation’s public-facing site with written and video materials on the Yakama Nation Perspective on the pump storage development
- Climate and Environmental Groups Sign-on Letter to Ecology
- Columbia Riverkeeper, WA Chap. Sierra Club, WEC, Friends of the White Salmon 401 Certification Comments, 2022
- American Rivers 401 Certification Comments, 2022
- Yakama Nation’s 401 Certification Comments, 2022
- Ecology’s Previous 401 Denial, June 2021
Lauren Goldberg, Columbia Riverkeeper, 541.965.0985, email@example.com
Zachary Pullin, Washington Conservation Action, 206.639.3760, firstname.lastname@example.org