Tribes Will Ask BPAby CBB Staff
Citing what they say is a potential federal court violation, leaders of four Columbia River treaty tribes this week strongly criticized the Bonneville Power Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' revised proposal to reduce summer spill at Columbia/Snake river dams.
At a Monday, June 14, face-to-face meeting, the tribes will formally request the agencies withdraw the proposal.
"This second proposal is strike 2 in a campaign to sell out salmon and tribal treaty obligations in order to ship more electricity to power-hungry California," said Ronald Suppah Sr., chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon.
Jerry Meninick, chairman of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, said, "The plan still lacks adequate measures to offset the salmon and steelhead we would lose if BPA gets its way. We want this haphazard plan off the table."
The tribes say estimates show that ratepayers would pocket no more than an average 10 cents per month in additional savings at best under the reduced spill scenario.
Tribal scientists, says a Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission press release, estimate tens of thousands of adult fish - including some populations listed under the Endangered Species Act - would die if the Corps and BPA suspend the summer program of spilling water over selected Columbia and Snake river dams.
The tribes and the region "still are paying the cost of lost salmon production and biodiversity resulting from the agencies' reducing summer spill in 2001," says the CRITFC press release. Final tallies of adult fish lost from that curtailment are unavailable until early fall.
Meanwhile tribal officials note that the proposed offset to compensate for lost fish include changes at Lyons Ferry Hatchery which they contend would violate a court-ordered agreement among three western states, the U.S. government and the four Columbia Basin treaty tribes.
The proposed changes at Lyons Ferry also would adversely affect management of chinook fisheries under the United States' Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada, they say.
"Halting summer spill would prove devastating for both the natural production of Snake River fall Chinook -- an ESA-listed species -- and the hatchery program, which is demonstrating strong success in rebuilding this important fish population," said Nez Perce Tribe chairman Anthony D. Johnson.
"We're now convinced it's time for BPA to stop proposing to end summer spill. Their most recent proposal violates the Endangered Species Act, violates a federal court order, violates the United States - Canada Salmon Treaty and is a violation of our treaty rights," said Antone Minthorn, who chairs the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
"It's time for BPA to admit that this proposal is a loser and take it off the table. The new proposal doesn't satisfy the conditions set forth by the governor of Oregon and our congressional delegation - the condition that the spill proposal not continue the decades-long saga of killing salmon," Minthorn said.
Kathryn Brigham, member of the Umatilla Tribes' Board of Trustees and Fish and Wildlife Committee, said the federal government is already obligated to carry out some of the "offset" actions.
"Furthermore," she said, "we were surprised to see that BPA is suggesting, as an 'offset,' changes to certain hatchery releases that may violate an order of the United States District Court for Oregon in the ongoing United States v. Oregon case."
"We are examining this aspect closely," said Brigham, "and we are exploring potential legal actions that could be taken in U.S. v. Oregon to address the matter. The existing approach for handling Lyons Ferry hatchery fish was negotiated by the U.S. v. Oregon parties-including the United States-and an agreement was entered as a binding order by the federal district court.
"We fail to see how a proposed action contrary to that order can now serve as a so-called 'offset' to a reduction in summer spill," she said.
"There may be other potential legal violations as well," Brigham contended, "and thus possibly more legal avenues to pursue in opposing this ill-conceived proposal."
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