The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of southern Idaho
are siding with the state of Oregon in a fight over the inclusion of fish
passage over the Snake River’s Hells Canyon Complex of dams.
Caught between states with diametrically
opposed views on upstream fish passage, especially passage by endangered
anadromous species, Idaho Power asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
to declare federal supremacy over the argument in late 2016. The power
company’s request was denied and in February of this year it appealed the
Commission’s decision to the Washington, D.C. appellate court. On March 30 the
Shoshone Bannock Tribes filed as an intervener in the case, siding with the
The tribes’ motion to intervene to the U.S.
Court of Appeals said the 1868 Treaty provides off-reservation hunting,
fishing, and gathering rights on unoccupied lands of the United States,
including waters of the Snake River, that flow through the Hells Canyon Complex
Species of particular significance to the
Tribes in relation to the Hells Canyon Complex are anadromous fish.
The motion stated, “The Snake River and its
tributaries are a sacred resource of the Tribes' aboriginal lands. Protection
of the rivers and flows for anadromous fish, including chinook, steelhead,
coho, sockeye, sturgeon, and lamprey…are critically important to the Tribes.”
The Tribes’ motion argued that the Hells
Canyon Complex adversely impacts the treaty reserved rights and federal trust
resources by impairing passage of anadromous fish and causing or contributing
to direct and indirect mortality. The complex diverts flows from important fish
habitat necessary for the production of these stocks, causing harm to
“Many Snake River fish stocks that are
affected by the Hells Canyon Complex support the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes'
ceremonial and subsistence treaty fisheries,” the motion said.
The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have advocated for
fish passage above the dams throughout the entire relicensing procedure
starting in the early 2000s. In November 2006 the Tribes submitted extensive
comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared for the Hells
Canyon Complex re-licensing, supporting license conditions that would provide
for fish passage and reintroduction.
The state of Oregon wants fish passage above
the dam for Snake River chinook salmon and steelhead, listed as threatened on
the Endangered Species List. Idaho law prohibits the reintroduction of
endangered species without approval from the legislature. Stuck in the middle,
Idaho Power filed its appeal to a higher court early this year in hopes to
force the Commission to override Oregon’s fish passage requirement, meanwhile
hoping the two states will come to an agreement.
Brad Bowlin, communications specialist for
Idaho power, said, “We continue to be encouraged by the ongoing discussions
between the states of Idaho and Oregon. Finding a mutually acceptable solution
to the fish passage issue will ultimately benefit both states as well as Idaho
-- CBB, May 5, 2017, “Hells Canyon Fish
Passage: Idaho, Oregon Governors' Letter Sets Up Process To Resolve
-- CBB, Feb. 10, 2017, “Idaho Power Caught
Between Idaho, Oregon Laws Regarding Fish Passage At Hells Canyon Complex” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438308.aspx
-- CBB, Dec. 16, 2016, “Oregon, Idaho Differ
On Clean Water Act Interpretations Regarding Snake River’s Hells Canyon