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WA Groups: Infrastructure Plan 'Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity' for NW

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021   

SEATTLE - Groups are urging Northwest leaders to act on U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson's infrastructure and Snake River dam proposal. It aims to restore what American Rivers calls in a report out this week, "the most endangered river in the country."

Sakara Remmu, lead strategist for the Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance, said the coalition is standing with Northwest tribal nations calling for the dams' removal to restore salmon. She said the group is organizing to speak with regional leaders.

"This is a critical, time-sensitive, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to seriously bring some environmental restoration and environmental justice to the Pacific Northwest," she said.

The proposal by Simpson, R-Idaho, has received criticism from some conservation groups that say its pause on litigation in the region lasts too long. The agriculture industry also has pushed back, saying breaching the dams would harm barging and irrigation. In a joint statement, U.S. senators from Washington and Oregon said all the region's stakeholders need to be heard before moving forward on this plan.

Julian Matthews, a Nez Perce tribal member and co-founder of the group Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment who lives in Washington, said the dams are harming tribal treaty rights to fish for salmon in the region.

"We didn't give them up and say, 'Well yeah, but if there's no fish, then we won't have that right'," he said. "We said that we have that right, and want to make sure that right is enforced by the federal government and our elected officials."

Robb Krehbiel, Northwest representative for the group Defenders of Wildlife, pointed out that Simpson's proposal also includes plans to modernize the region's power grid, including through improved battery storage and energy efficiency.

"It would just be a total shame if our region and our political leaders missed the opportunity to advance these big priorities in the upcoming infrastructure bill," he said.

Some groups and tribes in the region are pushing for more negotiations on the proposal so it can be included in the Biden administration's infrastructure plan.

Disclosure: Defenders of Wildlife contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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