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Biden Signs Presidential Memorandum to
Restore Fish to Columbia River Basin

by Nathan Strout
Seafood Source, September 29, 2023

"... pursue effective, creative, and durable solutions to restore wild fish populations ..."

The Ice Harbor Lock and Dam near Pasco is the last dam before the Snake River flows into the Columbia River. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times) U.S. President Joe Biden signed a presidential memorandum on 27 September to prioritize the restoration of fish to the Columbia River Basin.

"Today, President Biden is directing all relevant federal agencies to utilize existing authorities and available resources -- and assess what additional authorities and resources may be needed -- to restore these wild fish populations and help ensure that the United States upholds its treaty and trust responsibilities to the Tribes," the White House said in a statement.

The document "establishes that it is the policy of this administration to work with the Congress and with Tribal Nations, states, local governments, and stakeholders to pursue effective, creative, and durable solutions to restore wild fish populations while delivering affordable and reliable clean energy, supporting the local agriculture economy, and meeting the many resilience needs of the region."

The memorandum follows an agreement between the Biden administration and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, and the Spokane Tribe of Indians to fund efforts to restore and reintroduce salmon to blocked areas of the Upper Columbia River Basin. The agreement include USD 20 million (EUR 19 million) in funding from the Bonneville Power Administration over the next 20 years, as well USD 8 million (EUR 7.6 million) from the Department of the Interior.

"Since time immemorial, Tribes along the Columbia River System have relied on Pacific salmon, steelhead, and other native fish species for sustenance and their cultural and spiritual ways of life," U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said. "Today's historic agreement is integral to helping restore healthy and abundant fish populations to these communities."

"In 1940, Tribes from around the Northwest gathered at Kettle Falls for a Ceremony of Tears to mourn the loss of salmon at their ancestral fishing grounds," Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation Chairman Jarred-Michael Erickson said. "Today the federal government is taking a major step toward righting that historic wrong by committing to support the tribally led, science-driven reintroduction of salmon above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams."

In addition to the memorandum and agreement, Biden has directed the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the director of the Office of Management and Budget to explore other opportunities to partner with Tribes and the state government on the effort.

The administration also used the opportunity to announce USD 3.6 million (EUR 3.4 million) for the construction and expansion of Tribal fish hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin, but that's only the latest batch of funding the federal government has dedicated to improving fish passages and fostering restoration in the Columbia River. NOAA allocated USD 60 million (EUR 57 million) of the funding it received from the Inflation Reduction Act to maintenance projects on hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin. Another USD 79 million (EUR 75 million) was given to the Environmental Protection Agency's Columbia River Basin Program through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The federal government has also awarded millions of dollars to help remove the Enloe Dam and culverts, which will open up more habitat for fish to move through freely.

Nathan Strout
Biden Signs Presidential Memorandum to Restore Fish to Columbia River Basin
Seafood Source, September 29, 2023

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