the film
Commentaries and editorials

Tribes Oppose Senate
Memorial on Dams

by Press Release
Bingham News Chronicle, March 10, 2021

Small was the first speaker on the agenda and was limited to only two minutes to testify.
Small was the only tribal leader that gave testimony at the hearing.

Map showing location of 4 lower Snake River dams and reservoirs being considered for removal BOISE -- Fort Hall Business Councilman Nathan Small offered in-person verbal testimony Monday opposing Senate Joint Memorial 103 (SJM-103) to the Idaho Senate Resources and Environment Committee.

SJM-103 opposes the removal or breaching of the dams on the Columbia-Snake River System and its tributaries. Councilman Small stated "the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have worked extensively with Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson in the development of the Energy and Salmon Concept. We strongly support his comprehensive proposal, and oppose the SJM-103."

Small was the first speaker on the agenda and was limited to only two minutes to testify. Small was the only tribal leader that gave testimony at the hearing.

After Small offered his testimony, Sen. Jim Patrick (R- Twin Falls) asked if he expected that salmon would return to Fort Hall. Councilman Small responded, "No, they have never made it up to Fort Hall. There was a natural barrier at the Shoshone Falls, and they never came up this far up the Snake River. The Hells Canyon Complex blocked it, and some of the tributaries into Nevada sustained salmon, and Boise River also had salmon there. So, if there is a chance to bring the salmon above, then let's bring them home."

State Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett (D- Ketchum), asked whether the Tribes have been engaged in the discussion about the impacts of the dams and salmon fisheries. Small responded "the Tribes have been against the dams since they were put in, and slowly and rapidly the fish have disappeared. There was almost an extinction of the Redfish Lake sockeye. The Tribes themselves have petitioned to list the Redfish Lake sockeye under the Endangered Species Act."

Representing the Upper Snake River Tribes, Executive Director Scott Hauser was called upon to finish verbal testimony alongside the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes that Small was unable to offer due to the two-minute time limit. He was asked to explain how the four tribes of Idaho would benefit from Simpson's proposal, specifically on diet, the tribal attachment to fish, religious, food production and tribal values.

A variety of representatives spoke on behalf of numerous groups, including the Idaho Water Users, Idaho Wildlife Confederation, Idaho Outfitters and Guides, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, Idaho Rivers United, Idaho Grain Producers, Idaho Consumer-owned Utilities Association, and individuals who supported and opposed the Joint Memorial.

The Committee approved a "Do Pass Recommendation" for SJM 103. Senators Ali Rabe (D-Boise) and Michelle Stennett voted no. This recommendation then goes to the full Senate floor for action. A date was not provided. The Tribes' Office of Public Affairs will provide more information when information is received.

Related Pages:
Public Comment and Federal Responses, 45-day comment period of 8,000 page CRSO EIS, by bluefish during the Covid-19 Lockdown, 2020.


We, your Memorialists, the Senate and the House of Representatives of the State of Idaho assembled in the First Regular Session of the Sixty-sixth Idaho Legislature, do hereby respectfully represent that:

WHEREAS, the Idaho Legislature recognizes the Columbia-Snake River System as part of the United States Marine Highway network; and

WHEREAS, the Columbia-Snake River System and its tributaries, collectively and in its entirety, are a multiuse system providing navigation, transportation, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, hydropower generation, flood control, and irrigation to the citizens and industry of the Pacific Northwest; and

WHEREAS, the Columbia-Snake River System and its tributaries provide a vital contribution to the well-being of the State of Idaho and to the quality of life of its citizens, being among the most operationally important and cost-effective projects in the Federal Columbia River Power System; and

WHEREAS, a balanced river system produces economic benefits like jobs, trade, and renewable electricity while caring for environmental values through good management practices and reinvestment in our natural resources; and

WHEREAS, no amount of money can replace the lifestyle and economies of the communities that depend upon the Columbia-Snake River System's hydropower, navigation, irrigation, flood risk management, recreation, and municipal and industrial water supply benefits; and

WHEREAS, the State of Idaho reasserts and confirms sovereign control over all water resources within the state; and

WHEREAS, the decline of anadromous fish is due to many factors, including increased predation, unfavorable ocean conditions, and harvest levels; and

WHEREAS, breaching the four lower Snake River dams is an idealistic, single variable model to Pacific salmon recovery that flies in the face of reality for salmon, is illogical from an environmental perspective, hurts industry and communities, puts politics over science and local jobs, and may neither restore Idaho salmon nor prevent their extinction; and

Graphic: Juvenile Survival estimates through the Lower Snake Hydrosystem (1995-2019). WHEREAS, only four of the thirteen Endangered Species Act-listed salmon runs swim past the lower Snake River dams, and they do so with over 95% survival at each of the dams; and

WHEREAS, breaching the four lower Snake River dams would be a drastic measure that would forever alter our way of life in the Pacific Northwest; and

WHEREAS, breaching the lower Snake River dams is an outdated argument that is not supported by current dam passage survival studies of juvenile Pacific salmon; and

WHEREAS, in 2008, 2014, and 2020 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration produced biological opinions that stated breaching the four lower Snake River dams was not necessary action for salmon recovery; and

WHEREAS, the governor of Idaho commissioned the Governor's Salmon Work group, a diverse group of stakeholders that worked for 18 months to study the issue of salmon recovery, representing for the first time broad interests working collaboratively to help shape the state's salmon and steelhead policy; and

WHEREAS, that workgroup developed many practical recommendations to address the issue of improved river systems and habitat conditions for healthy salmon populations, specifically excluding any recommendations for removing dams; and

WHEREAS, due to the efforts of the state, the Nez Perce Tribe, and Idaho water users in entering into the 2004 Snake River Water Rights Agreement, up to 487,000 acre-feet of Idaho's water is used for flow augmentation for salmon and steelhead in the lower Snake and Columbia rivers, with water being released through willing-buyer, willing-seller arrangements. In return for flow augmentation, the 2004 agreement provides protections to Idaho water users in the form of a 30-year biological opinion; and

WHEREAS, agricultural and industrial applications of water have a legal priority within the state; and

WHEREAS, the Port of Lewiston, Idaho's only seaport, is part of the collective Columbia-Snake River System and is an asset to the State of Idaho and an asset to the Inland Northwest region, providing global competitiveness and connectivity for regional products, economic development investment, and multimodal transportation; and

WHEREAS, the State of Idaho supports the Port of Lewiston activities and believes that reservoir drawdowns or removal of the dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers would inflict on the citizenry a loss of recreation, an increase in electric rates, a loss of navigation, a risk of floods, economic hardship, and an impaired quality of life; and

WHEREAS, cruise boat traffic to the Port of Lewiston has steadily increased over the last 10 years and is projected to increase from 19,000 passengers in 2019 to over 33,000 passengers in 2022, a growth of 76%, bringing much financial growth to the entire Snake River area; and

WHEREAS, the Columbia-Snake River System acts as a top wheat export gateway in the United States, with approximately 10% of all United States wheat exports barged through the four dams on the Snake River and about 50% of all Idaho-grown wheat barged from Lewiston to Portland and then onto export markets around the world; and

WHEREAS, barging on the Columbia and Snake rivers is the safest, most fuel-efficient means of transporting cargoes in the Northwest, being 40% more fuel-efficient than freight trains and 270% more fuel-efficient than semitrucks; and

WHEREAS, without the ability to barge goods down the river, diesel fuel consumption would increase by nearly 5 million gallons per year as barges would be replaced by less efficient truck-to-rail shipments, resulting in increases in carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions by over 1.2 million tons per year; and

WHEREAS, the Columbia-Snake River System is also highly valued on the west coast for forest product exports and mineral exports, is second in the nation for soy exports, and is a major gateway for auto imports and exports. Each year, around 250,000 tons of wood chips are barged from the Lower Gran7 ite Pool to be turned into pulp for paper production at mills on the lower Co8 lumbia River; and

WHEREAS, hydroelectric power is one of the best energy sources we have, with clean, reliable, renewable baseload generation that is more valuable than ever as the four lower Snake River dams produce thousands of megawatts of low-cost, affordable electricity, which is renewable energy that provides power to rural Idaho utilities serving tens of thousands of Idahoans, numerous Idaho cities, farmers, and industries, while acting as a battery to integrate other intermittent renewable energy resources on the system; and

WHEREAS, the Idaho Legislature believes that any actions to degrade the functionality, in whole or in part, or to remove or breach dams on the Columbia-Snake River System or its tributaries, or to take water from the state for anadromous fish enhancement efforts would inflict on the citizenry of the state a loss in economic and trade opportunities, a loss of recharge waters for the state's aquifers, a loss of navigation and transportation, an increased risk of floods, an increase in electrical rates, a shortfall in power generation, a loss of recreational opportunities, and a threatened quality of life for Idaho citizens.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the members of the First Regular Session of the Sixty-sixth Idaho Legislature, the Senate and the House of Representatives concurring therein, that Idaho opposes the removal or breaching of the dams on the Columbia-Snake River System and its tributaries, has sovereignty of its water resources, prohibits contributions of water from Idaho's reservoirs for flow augmentation except those expressly authorized by state law, contends that efforts for further recovery of anadromous fish must be based on sound science, and supports maintenance and multiple-use benefits of the Columbia-Snake River System. Additionally, the Idaho Legislature recognizes and supports the international competitiveness, multimodal transportation, and economic development benefits provided by the Port of Lewiston.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Secretary of the Senate be, and she is hereby authorized and directed to forward a copy of this Memorial to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Congress and to the congressional delegations representing the states of Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Oregon in the Congress of the United States.

Press Release
Tribes Oppose Senate Memorial on Dams
Bingham News Chronicle, March 10, 2021

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation