Yesterday, the Biden Administration announced the creation of the Columbia River Task Force and the release of a report concluding that the federal dams have inflicted harm on Tribes in the region.

These steps advance the Administration’s agreement with Tribes and states from the Pacific Northwest to work to restore wild salmon populations in the Columbia River Basin. Nonetheless, the agreement did not involve navigation stakeholders and was not based on scientific evidence.

“Our concerns with the Biden Administration’s actions are their excessive lack of transparency and the failure to account for all interests affected by this complex issue,” states Neil Maunu, executive director of Pacific Northwest Waterways Association and Inland Ports and Navigation Group. 

We are deeply concerned with the failure to involve local communities that live and work in this region. This one-sided approach has not been transparent, as claimed by the Administration. The approach dismisses the tremendous negative impacts on the future of this region’s economy and the environmental harm caused by the breaching of the Lower Snake River dams. The current economy of the tri-state region is reliant on the Snake River and would be devastated by the negative impacts on river commerce, agriculture exports, recreation and tourism, and power generation. 

We urge the Administration to engage in genuine consultation with all stakeholders. Any path forward must be founded on comprehensive study and consensus-based solutions that address the complex tradeoffs between salmon recovery, dam breaching, and adverse environmental effects on the region. 

The Administration professes to support environmental justice, yet this report neglects the interests of millions of residents, including Native American tribes in the region, who rely on the river system's multi-use benefits today for their livelihoods, bringing more insecurity to marginalized communities and negatively impacting local economies. The Administration must reconsider its one-sided view in favor of an inclusive, holistic approach that equitably serves all stakeholders.