In new report, U.S. government acknowledges and details harms that federal dams have inflicted and continue to inflict on Tribal peoples in the Pacific Northwest

WASHINGTON – The Biden-Harris Administration today announced the creation of a new interagency Columbia River Task Force and the release of a landmark report acknowledging the harms that the federal dams have inflicted and continue to inflict on Tribes in the region. These steps advance a historic agreement to work in partnership with Tribes and states from the Pacific Northwest to restore wild salmon populations in the Columbia River Basin and develop a long-term strategy to meet the clean energy, transportation, and other key needs of the region.

Established by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and co-chaired by three federal agencies, the new Columbia River Task Force will coordinate efforts across federal agencies to fulfill the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitments to restore native fish populations made through President Biden’s Presidential Memorandum, fulfill a historic agreement to support Tribally led efforts to restore salmon in blocked habitats in the Upper Basin, and deliver on a 10-year partnership with Tribes and states in the Lower Basin to restore wild salmon, steelhead, and other native fish populations, expand Tribally sponsored clean energy production, and provide stability for communities.

Federal dams in the Columbia River Basin have long delivered – and continue to deliver – renewable energy and many other benefits. But they have also inflicted – and continue to inflict – grave harms on Tribal communities. Delivering on a key commitment, today the Department of the Interior is releasing a report acknowledging and detailing the historic, ongoing, and cumulative damage and injustices that the federal dams on the Columbia River have caused and continue to cause to Tribal Nations. The report marks the first time the U.S. government has detailed these harms.

“The Columbia River Task Force will implement President Biden’s vision to develop affordable, clean, and reliable energy options for the region while working to restore wild fish populations and address the grave harms the federal dams have inflicted on Tribal communities,” said Brenda Mallory, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “President Biden recognizes that to confront injustice, we must be honest about history – even when doing so is difficult. The report released today is an important step to recognize and overcome the past together.”

“Since time immemorial, Tribes along the Columbia River and its tributaries have relied on Pacific salmon, steelhead, and other native fish species for sustenance and their cultural and spiritual ways of life. Acknowledging the devastating impact of federal hydropower dams on Tribal communities is essential to our efforts to heal and ensure that salmon are restored to their ancestral waters,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “As part of our ongoing commitment to honoring our federal commitments to Tribal Nations, the Interior Department will continue to pursue comprehensive and collaborative basin-wide solutions to restore native fish populations, empower Tribes, and meet the many resilience needs of communities across the region.”

Nik Blosser will serve as the first Executive Director of the Columbia River Task Force. Blosser brings more than two decades of salmon and energy-related experience to the role, including experience in state and federal government and the private sector.

“Establishing the Columbia River Task Force reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s deep commitment to the Columbia River Basin and the communities it sustains,” said Nik Blosser, Executive Director of the Columbia River Task Force. “I am honored to lead the new Task Force, which will coordinate efforts across the federal government and partner with states and Tribal governments to restore native fish populations while ensuring communities and businesses continue to have reliable clean energy in the region.”

The Task Force will be co-chaired by Acting Deputy Secretary of the Interior Laura Daniel-Davis, Deputy Secretary of Energy Dave Turk, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Janet Coit. Other agencies represented on the Task Force include the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, the Office of Management and Budget, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

To further its commitments in the Columbia River Basin, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation last week also announced a formal partnership with the State of Washington to move forward with an expansive water supply analysis in the Columbia River Basin. The study will address ways to modernize and improve irrigation, municipal, and industrial water withdrawal systems in the Columbia River Basin that might be impacted if Congress authorizes the removal of the four Lower Snake River dams. A draft study is scheduled to be completed by late 2024.

Today’s actions build on the Biden-Harris Administration’s unprecedented commitment to Columbia River Basin, including investing more than $1 billion for wild fish restoration over the next decade and securing an agreement that allows for a 10-year break from decades-long litigation against the federal government’s operation of its dams in the Pacific Northwest.


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