NESPELEM — Colville Business Council Chairman Rodney Cawston says he supports finding a regional solution to restore salmon in the Columbia River.
He expressed appreciation for the willingness of U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, to offer a region wide proposal.
Earlier this month, Simpson released his “Northwest in Transition” proposal after nearly three years of stakeholder meetings. The proposal calls for more than $33 billion for various activities, including salmon restoration, in exchange for certainty for the energy, agriculture and transportation sectors.
The proposal can be found on Simpson’s website at https://simpson.house.gov/salmon/.
“The Colville tribes agrees that the Northwest has been stuck in the status quo when it comes to restoring salmon on the Columbia River” said Cawston. “We share Congressman Simpson’s vision that a region-wide solution is achievable by working with tribes both in the lower and upper Columbia River and affected stakeholders.”
Cawston noted the tribe’s interest in the proposal given the geographic proximity of the Colville Indian Reservation to the Columbia.
“We are one of two Northwest Indian tribes that is located on the main stem of the Columbia River,” Cawston said, noting that the tribe’s presence on the river extends northward to Canada when including the North Half, a 1.5-million-acre area set aside as part of the undivided Colville Reservation in 1872.
The tribe continues to exercise hunting, fishing and other federally secured rights in the North Half despite the area being opened to the public domain in the late 1800s.
“The Colville reservation and the North Half collectively border 215 miles of the Columbia, so we are a huge presence on the River,” said Cawston.
He added that reintroducing salmon to the upper Columbia has been a goal since the Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams blocked that habitat more than eight decades ago. The Upper Columbia United Tribes, an organization that represents the Colville Confederated Tribes and four other upper Columbia Indian tribes, demonstrated the feasibility of reintroduction of salmon in those areas in a 2015 report.