Blumenauer Secures Money to Address Safety and Sanitation Needs at Columbia River In-Lieu and Treaty Fishing Access Sites in House Spending Bill

July 29, 2021
Press Release
The House approved an additional $1.2 million in annual federal funds to meet the ongoing operations and maintenance needs of these sites

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives approved an amendment offered by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) that would provide an additional $1.2 million in annual federal funds to meet the ongoing operations and maintenance needs at the Columbia River In-Lieu and Treaty Fishing Access Sites. If signed into law, the provision – passed as part of the House’s Fiscal Year 2022 Interior-Environment appropriations package – will provide additional federal funds to the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Operation of Indian Programs to address ongoing operations at the sites.

“In 2015, when I first visited Lone Pine, one of the sites at the base of The Dalles Dam, I saw firsthand how deeply distressing the conditions were. Entire communities were living in makeshift housing without sufficient access to clean water, sanitation, or even electricity. I knew then that no one should be forced to choose between these conditions and not having access to ancestral lands or exercising treaty rights. For years, we have worked tirelessly with Columbia River Tribes and tribal organizations, local stakeholders, and members of the Congressional delegation to pass federal legislation to help improve conditions,” said Blumenauer. “It was a huge step forward in December of 2019 when our bill was finally signed into law, authorizing the Bureau of Indian Affairs to conduct a much-needed study of current safety and sanitation conditions and then work to improve them. While we work to enhance safety and sanitation infrastructure through that bill, and concurrently to fulfill the federal government’s long-term housing obligations, it’s critical that we ensure these sites receive basic maintenance and operations support – especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. We still have our work cut out for us, but today’s House vote to advance additional annual federal funds is an important step toward supporting that goal.”

While the Columbia River Power System, which includes the Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day dams, has been a source of electricity, jobs, and economic growth, the construction of the dams also destroyed native fishing sites and villages. For thousands of years, numerous tribes based their entire livelihood and culture around the Columbia River, living on its shores and eating and trading the salmon from its waters. The dams, constructed beginning in the 1930s, deeply and severely impacted this heritage, flooding tribal homes and traditional fishing sites, and inhibiting tribal members’ ability to exercise treaty rights to fish in their usual and accustomed places.

The tribes and their citizens have never been fully compensated for these losses. In the meantime, out of a need for housing and a desire to be close the river, many tribal members are using the In-Lieu and Treaty Fishing Access Sites for temporary or year-round residency, although the sites were not designed to support that type of use.

In addition to addressing compensation and longer-term housing issues, Blumenauer has led efforts to make improvements at the Treaty Fishing Access and In-Lieu sites. If signed into law, the appropriations amendment passed today by the House would build on existing legislation meant to assess and improve conditions by ensuring additional dedicated annual operations and maintenance funding moving forward.

Text of the appropriations amendment can be found here.