A Brief Timeline: Lower Snake Dams

The Rise and Fall of Lower Snake River Dams

A Brief Timeline

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Since time immemorial Indigenous people and Tribes live and fish in the region now known as the Lower Snake River.

Celilo Falls Native Americans Salmon Fishing Columbia River.jpg

Four Columbia River Tribes sign treaties with the United States reserving their rights to take salmon at “all usual and accustomed places,” including the Lower Snake River.

A photographer’s view of Granite Point on the Snake River before dam construction. Photo courtesy of Kyle Laughlin collection, PG 99. University of Idaho Library Special Collections and Archives, Moscow, ID.

Washington Dept. of Fisheries opposes building four dams on the Lower Snake River because they would “jeopardiz[e] more than one-half of the Columbia River salmon production in exchange for 148 miles of subsidized barge route.”

Construction of Ice Harbor Ice Harbor Lock and Dam on the Lower Snake River in 1960. Concerns about the dam’s negative impact on salmon and steelhead delayed completion by 15 years. Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
1956 – 1975

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructs four dams on the Lower Snake River, drowning the “usual and accustomed fishing places” protected by Tribal treaties.

Coho, Riversnorkeling

Snake River coho salmon go extinct.

Sockeye salmon by Russ Rickets

Shoshone-Bannock Tribes successfully petition the federal government to list Snake River sockeye salmon under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Spring-and fall-run Snake River Chinook salmon are ESA-listed in 1992.

Conrad Gowell, adobe stock image of salmon

Nez Perce Tribe begins reintroduction of Snake River coho salmon.

Teens with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Youth Council asked politicians to protect salmon by removing the four Lower Snake River dams at the “Rally for Salmon” in Portland, Oregon, in 2022. Photo courtesy of Save Our Wild Salmon.

Tribes, states, and fishing and conservation groups, including Columbia Riverkeeper, sue the federal government under the ESA for failing to create a plan (called a Biological Opinion) to protect and recover salmon populations. Judges in the case strike down multiple federal plans as inadequate and order marginal improvements to the dams’ operation to protect fish.

Dam on the lower snake river, OR

Snake River steelhead are ESA-listed.


Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) outlines an ambitious proposal to un-dam the Lower Snake River and re-invest in river communities.

The White House is the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States.

The Biden Administration promises a “durable solution” to restore abundant salmon, and acknowledges that Lower Snake River dam removal is “essential” to that goal.

alex milan tracy, flotilla june 2022
The Future

Un-dam the Snake River: Be a part of bringing this future to a reality.

Grapevine Outdoor, an advertising company based in Portland, co-sponsored a “Free the Snake” billboard campaign in downtown Portland, in collaboration with 1% for the Planet. Billboard art by Eric Doctor.

2023 Hopefully, the Biden Administration will release a comprehensive plan to recover Columbia Basin salmon, honor tribal rights, and replace the services of the Lower Snake River dams.


Salmon Unite Us: Join the Fight for Recovery


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Tell Northwest leaders and Pres. Biden to remove Snake River dams, prevent salmon extinction, and honor Tribal rights.