Leadership from four Columbia River treaty tribes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Indian Affairs gathered on the banks of the Columbia River Wednesday morning to celebrate the completion of the Dallesport Treaty Fishing Access Site.
The 31st in-lieu and treaty fishing access site constructed by the Corps under “Public Law 100-581, Title IV: Columbia River Treaty Fishing Access Sites represents the end of the construction phase of the Columbia River Treaty Fishing Access Site program. The sites constructed under the program are mitigation for usual and accustomed fishing areas lost by the tribes when the lower Columbia River Dams were constructed, beginning with Bonneville Dam in 1937.
“The conclusion of these construction projects demonstrates the power of partnership and what we can accomplish when we work together,” said Gerald Lewis, chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “There is still work that needs to be done to address what was lost at these sites. I believe we will accomplish what we need to by working together.”
The development of the tribal in-lieu and treaty fishing access sites began in 1988 when Congress enacted Public Law 100-581. The sites are designed with facilities such as: boat ramps and docks, fish-cleaning tables, net racks, drying sheds, restrooms, mechanical buildings, and shelters. In total, the in-lieu and treaty fishing access sites occupy approximately 700 acres along the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam. Construction on the first treaty fishing access site began in 1995.
“Completing the treaty fishing access sites is a great milestone for the Corps, but there’s still more to do,” said George Miller, the Corps’ TFAS project manager. “We hope this partnership remains strong as we work together to solve some of the other substantive challenges facing the region. Challenges like adjusting the John Day mitigation fish production program and outstanding housing issues will need a strong partnership if we are to achieve success.”
Purchased in 2009, the 64-acre Dallesport site has eight campsites for tribal member use during the tribal fishing seasons, a 128-foot boat launch, 120-foot dock, restroom and shower facilities, net repair racks and a fish cleaning table. Costing $4.8 million, an overwhelming majority of personnel working on the construction of the project were tribal.
In addition to the developments for tribal fishers, the site involved extensive environmental remediation work. Sandy dunes were stabilized with various plants and willow plantings and an estimated six thousand tons of tar-tainted sand was removed from the soil.
A task force comprised of tribal, CRITFC, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Corps of Engineers representatives worked on a government-to-government basis to implement the project. The group established processes and considerations that respected the tribes’ concerns such as potential impacts to cultural resources, and the needs of the tribal fishers and tribal communities. Each tribe’s Tribal Employment Rights Office assisted the task force in developing employment opportunities for tribal members during site construction.