In-Depth: Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) reintroduced this bill to enable the Bureau of Indian Affairs to make safety and sanitation improvements at federally-owned tribal treaty fishing sites along the Columbia River:
“While we work to provide longer-term relief through the construction of permanent housing, this legislation calls for immediate action to improve conditions at the tribal fishing sites along the Columbia River. Urgent upgrades are needed for electrical, sewer, and other basic improvements to address safety, sanitation, and other conditions. The federal government shouldn’t let more time pass without helping to make sure that the basic necessities of clean and safe conditions are pursued. The status quo is unacceptable.”
The Columbia River Treaty tribes — the Warm Springs, Umatilla, Nez Perce, and Yakama Nation — have a treaty-protected right to fish along the Columbia River and were displaced from many villages in the 1930s during the construction of the lower Columbia River dams (including lands and fishing sites at the pictured Celilo Falls).
While 31 fishing sites were built by the federal government along the Columbia River to provide daily, in-season fishing access and temporary camping access, the commitment to replace the flooded housing largely wasn’t kept. As a result, some tribal members are living in makeshift housing at those sites in what the Associated Press described as “decrepit, unsafe, and unsanitary” conditions.
In November 2018, the Trump administration restored funding for a plan to rebuild the villages that had been left out of the administration’s 2017 budget due to concerns raised by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney about how the funds would be moved within the Corps of Engineers accounts. The Army Corps of Engineers added The Dalles Dam village plan to its 2019 project list at a cost of $1.8 million, which will fund environmental and feasibility assessments of building permanent housing at the sites with involvement from tribal members.
This bill has the support of one cosponsor, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR).
Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: OSU Special Collections & Archives / Public Domain)