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Oregon, Washington Senators Urge Funding For Upgrading Tribal Fishing Access Sites
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2017 (PST)

U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), along with U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) sent a letter this week to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Office of Management and Budget, urging them to allocate the necessary funding to address unmet obligations to the four Columbia River Treaty Tribes regarding treaty fishing access sites.


The construction of the Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day dams flooded tribal communities, houses, and traditional hunting and fishing sites along the Columbia River.


Last month, the Corps dedicated up to $1.56 million for a village development plan to replace housing that was lost during construction of The Dalles Dam, with plans to dedicate $1.49 million more, depending on congressional funding for the rest of fiscal year 2017. The current funding bill runs through April 28, 2017.


“Conditions at many treaty fishing access sites and in-lieu sites are highly unsafe and unsanitary, and it is finally time for the federal government to fulfill commitments made when the dams were constructed and to honor the treaties signed with the four Columbia River Treaty Tribes. A strong commitment from the Army Corps and Office of Management and Budget is needed to make progress this year in the interest of public health and safety and upholding treaty rights,” the members wrote.


Beginning in the 1930s, the construction of the three lower Columbia River dams displaced members of the four Columbia River Treaty tribes: Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Nez Perce Tribe, and Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation of the Yakama Reservation. These Tribes have a treaty-protected right to fish along the Columbia River in their usual and accustomed places.


The senators and congressman, says a press release, “have been fighting to address the urgent need for adequate housing and infrastructure at tribal fishing access sites constructed by the Army Corps following construction of The Dalles, Bonneville, and John Day dams.”


The Corps designed the sites to be used primarily for daily, in-season fishing access and temporary camping; however, in many cases tribal members now use the areas as longer-term or even permanent residences.


A Fact-Finding Review on Tribal Housing prepared by the Army Corps found that as many as 85 tribal families who lived on the banks of the Columbia River prior to construction of the Bonneville and The Dalles dams did not receive relocation assistance, despite the fact that several non-tribal communities inundated by dam construction did receive such assistance.


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