Tribes Call for Improved Salmon Runsby Scripps-McClatchy
Lewiston Tribune, June 5, 2003
WASHINGTON -- The Bonneville Power Administration and other federal agencies have failed to provide adequate funding to restore endangered salmon runs on the Snake and Columbia Rivers, Northwest tribes told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Wednesday.
Tribal leaders also said that, despite court rulings upholding their fishing rights, they don't feel the federal government has treated them as full partners in developing plans to revive the runs.
"As partners under the supreme laws of the United States, we must be treated as true partners at the same table, not as supplicants whose needs can be arbitrarily and capriciously ignored," said Olney Patt Jr., executive director of the Columbia River Inter- Tribal Commission.
Others said that as BPA's financial problems have mounted, the agency, which markets the electricity produced at federal dams on the two rivers, has cut funding for fish and wildlife programs. According to testimony submitted by the Yakama Tribe, current funding from Bonneville and other federal agencies cover only about 60 percent of the cost to implement the region's salmon restoration program.
"Unless BPA provides actions certain to restore salmon and funds them, the federal government will either have to breach the Snake River dams or seek an exemption from the Endangered Species Act 'God Squad' to allow Columbia Basin salmon go extinct," the Yakama Tribe said.
The so-called God Squad, a special Cabinet-level committee, can decide whether to exempt a species from the Endangered Species Act, thus allowing it to go extinct. Environmentalists and some of the tribes have long argued the only sure way to assure the survival of salmon runs would be to breach four dams on the lower Snake.
BPA Administrator Steve Wright said his agency has not reduced fish funding.
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