By LORI ANN EDMO
FORT HALL — The Fort Hall Business Council recently sent a letter to President Joe Biden in support of Congressman Mike Simpson’s Northwest in Transition, Energy and Salmon legislative proposal.
The letter reads the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes believe a proposal to invest billions of dollars in our economy to modernize the generation and transmission of energy, rebuild communities struck by economic downturn, ensure farmers can get products to market, recover salmon, and protect inherent and reserved tribal treaty rights and interests will provide Idaho's Endangered Species Act listed salmon populations a chance to move towards recovery.
“The Tribes remain acutely aware of the political tenor of recent statements, either in support or opposition, to the proposal to actively engage in a conversation based on the concepts presented by Congressman Simpson,” the letter continues. “Based on these concepts, it appears that an open, honest dialogue can ensure actual legislation to accomplish both an improvement to our energy grid and an opportunity to recover salmon in Idaho while keeping local economies whole and preserving the Northwest's many cultures.”
The Tribes have long been forced to shoulder the burden of conservation through our dedication to protect, preserve, and enhance the natural resources of the Snake River Basin, while others benefit from its bounty. “Our desire is to bring a measure of long-ignored environmental justice to our people and our homelands, given that the modern Northwest with its massive irrigation and hydropower systems was built — from the 1930s on —through the use and destruction of the rivers and fisheries we have lived with and relied on for thousands of years.”
Simpson’s proposal encompasses more than salmon, it is a comprehensive, pro-energy, improved infrastructure and technology, revisioning of the Northwest and the Columbia River Basin. It proposes a better, smarter future for the Northwest: precisely targeted river restoration and salmon recovery; intensive investment in new clean energy, infrastructure, and technology; and long-term litigation resolution and legal certainty.
The Tribes believe the Simpson proposal is not anti-hydropower, it is arguably reverse because it would remove four non-critical dam and restore 140 miles of reservoir slack water to its formal natural riverine ecosystem providing a fish friendly migration corridor through the lower Snake River to the pristine headwaters of Idaho’s Clearwater and Salmon riversw while providing long term legal protections, certainties and license extensions for essentially all of the remainder of the Columbia Basin hydropower system.
The Tribes are actively involved in anadromous fish recovery in all forums and have been for decades to rebuild natural runs to healthy, harvestable levels. The Tribes are engaging the Northwest delegation and Northwest governors. The Tribes ask for Biden’s timely support to assist and converge with the engagements to generate necessary vision and momentum for the proposal.
The Tribes support Congressman Simpson's proposal because the Northwest region requires a solution that encompasses more than resolving salmon recovery. “The region needs a comprehensive infrastructure package to convert our outdated energy systems with the best available technology; demonstrating conclusively that by collaboratively developing energy systems we can improve the function of ecosystems and our local communities. The disparate voices in our region require: precisely targeted river restoration; salmon recovery; intensive investment in new clean energy; infrastructure; technology investments in transmission and storage; as well as an end to the long-term litigation the presence of these four dams has caused.”
The letter concludes the tribal council’s duty as tribal leaders is to the Tribes and people and to the vision they hold of a better future. The FHBC views the Northwest Energy and Salmon Proposal as a unique legislative opportunity that should not be ignored and cannot be postponed.