This is a guest post from Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, (NPtE) President, Elliott L. Moffett
I am the President of Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment (NPtE). I along with Julian Matthews are the co-founders of NPtE. We got our start principally during the rolling blockade of Megaloads traversing the Nez Perce Indian Reservation in North Central Idaho. Megaloads are pieces of equipment too large for ordinary traffic and must receive special attention to travel over highways because of their size. Tribal members, members of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC), and the public objected to the megaloads going to Canada to the tar sands, and we objected to the callousness of the owners and transport company who subject dangerous extractive industries onto vulnerable communities, and we objected to the lack of consultation when the Reservation Community may have been impacted and the impact to the environment. The Reservation Community wants environmentally sound practices as more fitting of Community values.
The Tribe and others sued and won in federal district court to require such megaioads to consult with the Tribe. The federal government has a duty under the trust doctrine to consult with the Tribe.
Our next endeavor was to advocate for the removal of the Four Lower Snake River Dams (LSRD) to free up the Snake and to give the salmon and steelhead populations a fighting chance at survival. NPtE fully realizes that with the ever declining fish runs, marks the Nimiipuu culture decline as well. When the River suffers, the Nimiipuu suffer as well. We consider the Snake River and the fish populations to be sacred. Mother Earth has taken care of the Nimiipuu for at least, according to an archaeological site on the Salmon River, 16,000. Years.
The Nimiipuu during this period has developed a relationship with this part of North America, which included witnessing last ice age floods. The mission of NPtE includes to educate the public about the contributions made to North America, in particular about the Nimiipuu way of “managing” Mother Earth. It was this management regime that provided the bounty to Nimiipuu and later to the fledgling U. s.
The Nimiipuu because of this 16,000 year involvement and relationship know sustainability. The Nimiipuu system of management sustained a population and way of life for millennia. And, now after a few hundred years we find those populations of salmon and steelhead once numbering in the millions now threatened with extinction.
Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment questions the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), and the Biological Opinion’s (BiOp) rationality. The FEIS is court-ordered, a four-year project, and looked at six (6) recovery alternatives, and selected preferred alternative which is the flexible spill, which is already agreed to. the Biological Opinion is based and drawn from the FEIS, and represents the FEIS preferred alternative. The FEIS is released by three agencies; ACOE, BPA, & USBR. The BiOp is released by the NOAA.
The Facebook page for the Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment has the position of the NPtE. I won’t reiterate them here, but to refer individuals to that page. But, we are investigating options. Primarily, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment is very concerned about the fate of the River and all of its inhabitants and those that live along and depend on the River. We are, too, very concerned about Treaty rights and responsibilities that go along with fishing for salmon and steelhead.
Historically, salmon consisted of a large portion of the culture and lives of the Nimiipuu. Not only did we consume fish, but as a part o the culture, the salmon provided many cultural aspects, including dance, ceremony, seasonal gatherings,’etc. Not only are the fish threatened with extinction, but the culture of the Nimiipuu is also threatened, if fish cannot survive the ordeal of the dams.
Now is the late summer months when the LSRD reservoirs are thermal pollutants and cess-pools of death for fish that require fast, clean, cold water to survive. The FEIS and BiOp are condemning salmon and steelhead to extinction for industries and livelihoods that can survive and thrive the breaching of LSRD. Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment finds the justifications for maintaining these dams to be deficient from a number of aspects.
The first deficiency to be noted is that the Tribal membership of Nez Perce do not benefit from the operations and maintenance of these impoundments. Grain is shipped for export generally and does not benefit tribal members at home. Hydropower is not clean energy, when spills of lubricant are dumped into dam waters. Energy replacement is affordable and feasible. Organizations are in place to provide the education about such issues, whether they be scientific, economics, or energy.
The conclusion remains: the LSRD have to be breached. The cost of breaching will be more than paid for by a recovered River and River population that predated the building of the dams. Urgency is needed as salmon and steelhead populations cannot wait for more studying the situation which has not appreciably changed as reflected by Treaty Rights and Responsibility practices and uses.
The FEIS and BiOp reflect the federal government’s mismanagement of Trust Resources under the Treaties. Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment stands ready with other Tribal Members, Tribal supporters and non-Tribal supporters to advocate for the rights of Mother Earth and her plants and animals to exist and thrive. The best alternative to accomplish such an agenda is to get rid of these deadbeat dams.