Nez Perce Tribe Calls for Leadership on Lower Snake River Restoration

Core Truths Not Addressed in Federal Agencies’ Record of Decision on Dam Operations on lower Snake River and mainstem Columbia River.


Lapwai, ID –  Today, the Nez Perce Tribe emphasized that it continues to focus – in vision and action – on what our people see as core truths: 1) the status of salmon, steelhead, and lamprey is dire; 2) the four concrete barriers on the lower Snake river have had – and continue to have – a devastating impact on the fish and on tribal people; 3) restoring the lower Snake River to a natural river and eliminating these barriers that stand between the largely-pristine habitat in the Salmon, Snake, and Clearwater basins is the cornerstone to rebuilding returns along with ongoing hatchery and habitat actions; and 4) as dire as the situation already is, these fish may have even less time given the looming impact of a warming climate.


“We view restoring the lower Snake River as urgent and overdue. To us, the lower Snake River is a living being, and, as stewards, we are compelled to speak the truth on behalf of this life force and the impacts these concrete barriers on the lower Snake have on salmon, steelhead, and lamprey, on a diverse ecosystem, on our Treaty-reserved way of life, and on our people.” stated Chairman Shannon F. Wheeler.


The Tribe has actively participated in the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) litigation involving the impacts of the federal dams on the lower Snake River and mainstem Columbia River. The Tribe agreed with U.S. District Judge Michael Simon about the unique opportunity a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) provides—that a comprehensive EIS “may be able to break through any logjam that simply maintains the precarious status quo” while the Federal Columbia River Power System “remains a system that ‘cries out’ for a new approach and for new thinking” if wild Pacific salmon and steelhead are to survive their encounter with modern man. 


“Today’s Record of Decision (ROD) embraces an EIS that failed to provide the accurate, complete, and transparent information and analysis of the impacts of the four lower Snake River dams that are necessary for national and regional decision-makers, and that is required by law under NEPA. And today’s ROD embraces a fifteen year BiOp – in the face of looming climate change projections – that requires no more protection for salmon and steelhead than the 2019-2021 Spill Operation Agreement that was merely intended to be an interim agreement – a bridge – to the development of a more significant system improvement. The ROD – and the EIS and BiOp – are unacceptable,” Chairman Wheeler continued.


“We are committed to continuing to provide leadership on restoring the lower Snake River in all forums: from the halls of Congress, to our federal agency trustees and partners, to the courtroom, to the statehouses, to conversations with our neighbors, energy interests, and other river users,” concluded Chairman Wheeler.