Legal & Institutional Overview

The legal and institutional context for the management and protection of the basin’s anadromous fish resources is provided beginning here in Legal and Institutional Overview and continues in the following sections.

The treaty promises of the United States to protect the aboriginal right of our tribes to take fish at all of our usual and accustomed fishing places precedes all other laws affecting the Columbia Basin and were not diminished by those laws. The laws regarding operations that may affect treaty fisheries are subject to the treaties and need to be read consistent with them.

The decline of many Columbia Basin anadromous populations has been observed for over a century. Departing from the policies that produced the Mitchell Act and the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan (LSRCP), the last twenty years produced the U.S. v. Oregon Columbia River Fish Management Plan (CRFMP), the Northwest Power Planning Council’s (NPPC) Fish and Wildlife Program (FWP), and mid-Columbia orders under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); plans for in-place, in-kind rebuilding and restoration using habitat and propagation techniques to increase naturally spawning populations.

Our tribes first proposed a realistic, authoritative program for recovery of damaged upriver salmon in 1982. In the instances where our proposals were implemented, the tribes demonstrated that recovery is possible when the uses of the river are balanced to increase survival at all salmon life stages, not just at the time when fish pass our fishermen. In other instances, new institutions lacked the authority to overcome the imbalance of a century of development built on the backs of upriver anadromous fish.

In 1986, our biologists estimated our cumulative salmon losses due to hydropower development at 140 to 340 million fish, and the taking continues. By this proposal, the tribes are not asking for repayment of this debt in dollars. We are simply asking that the region utilize our know-ledge and modify regional institutions to support our methods for restoring our fish and fisheries so the debt stops mounting.

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