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8th Annual One River, Ethics Matter Conference

Restoring ntytyix (salmon) to the Okanagan and Upper Columbia Rivers.

Okanagan Nation Alliance and UBCO host Columbia River conference

Voices from both sides of the border discuss ethics of the Columbia River Treaty

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  • What: One River, Ethics Matter (OREM) conferenceAgenda
  • Who: UBCO’s Jeannette Armstrong, ʔaʔsiwɬ Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, traditional knowledge keepers, environmental experts, academic and religious scholars
  • When: November 17 and 18, from 9:00 am to 12:30 both days
  • Venue: Virtually via Zoom
  • To Attend (free): Register
  • More on OREM: riverethics.org

As the world’s leaders convened at COP26 to discuss actions to address climate changes, plans were finalized in the Okanagan for the annual One River, Ethics Matter (OREM) conference. This 8th annual ethics consultation for the Columbia River, Nov 17-18, will follow the White House Tribal Nations Summit on Nov 15-16, and precede Pope Francis’ visit to Canada “on a pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation” with Indigenous people. 

The 2021 One River Ethics Matter conference is hosted by the Okanagan Nation Alliance and UBC Okanagan. This will be the eighth annual event and it will focus on the Indigenous-led work of the Syilx nation with kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓—restoring ntytyix (salmon)—to the Okanagan and Upper Columbia rivers.

The main objective of the two-day conference is to discuss the review process now underway to modernize the 57-year old Columbia River Treaty. Participants include traditional ecological knowledge keepers, environmental experts, along with academic and religious scholars from both sides of the 49th parallel.

Dr. Jeannette Armstrong, a Syilx knowledge keeper and UBCO associate professor who was recently appointed a Royal Society of Canada Scholar, will be one of several speakers at the event. Other leaders and panel experts include Grand Chief ʔaʔsiwɬ Stewart Phillip, who is president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis, University of Idaho Professor Emerita Barbara Cosens, along with Indigenous youth experts, historians, biologists, policy officials and Bishop Gregory Bittman of the Roman Catholic Church.

Pauline Terbasket, executive director of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, has been participating in the OREM conference since the first session in Spokane in 2014.

“These gatherings have been opportunities to feel the reality and impacts of colonization upon Indigenous Nations and the devastating impacts of the Columbia River Treaty. They also provide an opportunity to share stories that are familiar to all tribes along the Columbia River,” says Terbasket. “As the Indigenous people of the Columbia Basin, we are all salmon people, tied to the river for sustenance and to carry our responsibilities to care for all our lands, resources and peoples as we have since time immemorial.”

The OREM conference series is an ethics consultation process for improving the quality of ethical decision-making for the Columbia River.

Lesley Cormack, UBC Okanagan’s deputy vice-chancellor and vice-principal, will provide opening remarks at the event.

“For many generations, the Columbia River basin has supported a diverse ecosystem that breathes life into our natural environment across western Canada and the United States,” says Cormack. “We share an important responsibility to support Indigenous peoples as the caretakers and stewards of these lands and ensure that the Columbia River continues to sustain life for many generations to come.”

About OREM

Salmon have been blocked from reaching Canada’s Upper Columbia River after the Grand Coulee Dam was built in Washington State some 80 years ago. In 1964, Canada and the United States implemented the Columbia River Treaty to develop the hydroelectric potential of the Columbia River Basin and to manage flood risk.

Grounded in respectful dialogue the conference is a part of the Ethics and Treaty Project, which aims to increase public understanding of the Columbia River Treaty and provide an interdisciplinary forum to discuss shared stewardship of the river in the face of climate change. Alternating between the United States and Canada, the conference is jointly hosted by an Indigenous sovereign nation and an academic institution.

The 2021 OREM conference is free and open to the public. More information can be found at: riverethics.org

To Register

People can register for the event at: https://ubc.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_aKQEqnHxQ3y7L0TIMqb52A


Washington Water Watch: October Edition

Dear Friends,

We hope you’ve enjoyed the few sunny October days and are doing well. During the rainy season, don’t be tricked into thinking we don’t have water supply issues. We will hear forecasts of endless days of rain, but it is important to remember to keep conversations on water use efficiency and conservation going. We still need to protect our water resources. It is also important to be prepared for floods and have an emergency kit for storms and power outages.

The climate is warming and our weather patterns and natural disasters are going to be more extreme. Over time we will have even wetter winters, but more precipitation will fall as rain rather than snow. Less snowpack will exacerbate water issues in the summer. Summers will continue to get drier and drought and fire season, longer. The west is already facing a megadrought. Timing is everything.

We need to take this time of year to think about how we can affect water policy in the coming legislative session, what we can do on a local level to increase conservation efforts, and how we can bring people together to create more equitable water management.

With the end of the year approaching, we are excited to be hosting our Celebrate Water reception and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) workshop series. We are thrilled to be planning Celebrate Water as an in-person event and truly hope to see you soon.

In this issue you will find an update on the Golden Eagle/Darrington water permit application, an article on conservation in water management at different levels, information on a huge Clean Water Act victory, a survey on email communication, water and fish news, details on Celebrate Water and our CLE workshops, registration for the One River, Ethics Matter conference, and ways to support CELP’s work protecting Washington’s waters.

Sincerely,
Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

Read the full newsletter here.


Cowlitz Indian Tribe, WSU-Vancouver co-host 7th conference on ethics, Columbia River future

A multi-year ethics consultation on the Columbia River Treaty facilitated by the Ethics & Treaty Project.

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Cowlitz Indian Tribe and Washington State University Vancouver’s Native American Affairs and Collective for Social and Environmental Justice are co-hosting the seventh annual Lower Columbia River, Estuary: “One River, Ethics Matter” conference. Attendees will draw on the ethical foundations provided by Indigenous cultural leaders and western religious leaders, as well as lessons from the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, to advance justice and stewardship for the Columbia River in a time of climate change. 

“These discussions are going to be important as we transition to a new presidential administration and the Columbia River Treaty is renegotiated,” said Taylor Aalvik, director of the Natural Resources Department for Cowlitz Indian Tribe. “The United States treaty-negotiating team has excluded tribes in the past, and it will be necessary in the future that we are at the table during the negotiations.”

“One River, Ethics Matter” will cover the impact of COVID-19 and past epidemics on tribal communities; the impact of dams on the lower Columbia River and estuary; floodplain real estate for Portland/Vancouver including basin-wide impacts and the need for basin-wide flood risk review; and youth, climate change and the river.

The conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10. It is free and open to the public, but registration is required. For more information and to register, visit celp.org/ethics-estuary/.

Speakers include:
  • Philip Harju, chairman, Cowlitz Indian Tribe
  • Mel Netzhammer, chancellor, WSU Vancouver
  • Tanna Engdahl, spiritual leader, Cowlitz Indian Tribe
  • John Osborn MD, Ethics and Treaty Project
  • The Rev. John Rosenberg
  • Mike Iyall, tribal historian, Cowlitz Indian Tribe
  • Christine Dupres, tribal historic preservation officer and Tribal Council member, Cowlitz Indian Tribe
  • Nathan Reynolds, director, Cultural Resources Department, Cowlitz Indian Tribe
  • The Rev. W. Thomas Soeldner
  • John Marsh, policy analyst, Cowlitz Indian Tribe
  • Jim Heffernan, policy analyst, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
  • Sandra Luke, Chair for the Lands & Resources Sector, Ktunaxa Nation
  • Emma Johnson, tribal historic preservation assistant, Cowlitz Indian Tribe
  • Shay Way, fisheries biologist, Cowlitz descendant
  • Rosalie Fish, student, Cowlitz descendant
  • Taylor Aalvik, director, Natural Resources Department, Cowlitz Indian Tribe
  • Celia Delaney, mental health counselor, Cowlitz Tribe and Human Services
  • Pauline Terbasket, executive director, Okanagan Nation Alliance

About Cowlitz Indian Tribe

Cowlitz Indian Tribe is a sovereign nation located in Southwest Washington. The Tribe is a leader in the protection and restoration of Columbia River, Smelt, Salmon and habitat. Since time began, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe has been a knowledge holder and steward on the Columbia River, ensuring the generations to come can enjoy everything the Columbia River Basin has to offer.

About WSU Vancouver

As one of six campuses of the WSU system, WSU Vancouver offers big-school resources in a small-school environment. Both in person and online, the university provides affordable, high-quality baccalaureate- and graduate-level education to benefit the people and communities it serves. As the only four-year research university in Southwest Washington, WSU Vancouver helps drive economic growth through relationships with local businesses and industries, schools, and nonprofit organizations. 

MEDIA CONTACTS

WSU Vancouver: Brenda Alling, Office of Marketing and Communication, 360-546-9601, brenda_alling@wsu.edu

Cowlitz Indian Tribe: Tiffini Johnson, Natural Resources Department, Cowlitz Indian Tribe, 360-353-9509, tjohnson@cowlitz.org

Additional Links:


Washington Water Watch: November Edition

As the year approaches its end, we have all had to rethink how we do many things including work, school, birthdays and holidays. But that hasn’t stopped us from doing our work to protect and restore our river flows through outreach, policy work and litigation. Much of the year we have been working through the watershed planning process to come up with plans to mitigate impairment of instream flows from permit exempt wells. This process has taken 2 years, but hopefully it will have a positive impact on our rivers.

 But there is so much we need to do. Many rivers and streams around the state still lack basic protections, and endangered salmon and steelhead still face an uphill battle for recovery in part because of high river temperatures as a result of low flows. And climate change will continue to challenge how we manage our water resources.

 In this issue you’ll find an update on dam removals and proposals in the Northwest, information on our CLE Winter Workshop now being hosted as three virtual workshops, Water Stories, Giving Tuesday, and the 7th annual One River, Ethics Matter conference. 

CELP has a great team to do this work, but we can’t do it alone. We rely on donations from our members and supporters, and this year a generous supporter has offered a match to all year end donations up to $5,000. You can help us reach our goal and end the year strong by donating on our secure website, www.celp.org

Sincerely,

Trish Rolfe,

Executive Director

Read the full Newsletter here.


Washington Water Watch: January 2020 Edition

Dear friends of CELP,


Happy New Year everyone! CELP is entering 2020 focused on our mission to protect, preserve, and restore Washington’s waters. 


This year we will continue our outreach to connect people to the impacts of climate change and water scarcity issues. We will continue to act in the community, participate in streamflow restoration workgroups, work with Native American Tribes to honor and support their treaty rights and tribal fisheries, and advocate for sustainable instream flows. When our water is threatened we will use litigation to protect and defend Washington’s rivers and drinking water aquifers.


We are starting the year strong and working hard in Olympia to protect Washington’s waters during the legislative session. Our hard work would not be possible without you. We rely on generous donations from our members and supporters to hold our lawmakers and agencies accountable for protecting Washington’s rivers and streams. Please consider helping us continue this important work by making a donation today!


In this issue you will find information about Snowpack levels, the 2020 Legislative Session, Clean and Abundant Water Lobby Day, the latest Columbia River Treaty town hall, a big thank you to the Kalispel Tribe and to all of our supporters, and upcoming events.

 Sincerely,

Trish Rolfe

Executive Director

trolfe@celp.org

Full Newsletter

Methow River. Elan Ebeling.

Washington Water Watch: April 2019 Edition

Dear friends of CELP,  It’s been a while  since our last Washington Water Watch and CELP has been busy working to protect and restore Washington’s waters. This year is shaping up to be a critical year for water in Washington, as the Department of Ecology just declared a drought in  three  watersheds: The Upper Yakima, Okanogan, and Methow. This could be bad news for fish and our population of Resident Orca’s.

 

March was unprecedentedly dry, and it is likely to only get worse from here. The coming months are forecast to be warmer and drier than normal, putting more and more areas around the state at risk. The warmer the summers get with Climate Change; the more frequently droughts are likely to occur. The only way we can proactively combat this is to start planning now and encourage the state to prioritize sound sustainable water policy. All this makes CELP’s work more critical than ever, but our work would not be possible without supporters like you. We rely on our generous donations from our members and supporters to hold our lawmakers and agencies accountable for protecting Washington’s rivers and streams. Renew your membership today on our secure website.

 

In this issue you will find information about this year’s Celebrate Waters and GiveBIG campaign, CELP’s newest staff members, an upcoming Ethics Conference, a recap of CELP’s first ever Lobby Day as well as Winter Waters, a legislative wrap up and more.

 

Sincerely,
 Trish
Trish Rolfe
Executive Director
trolfe@celp.org

 

P.S. April 22nd is Earth Day and CELP will be working to protect Washington’s rivers and streams! You can help support that work by Making a donation today!

 

Click HERE to read the full report. 


Columbia River Treaty Negotiating Team out of step with Northwest Values

Sept 6 in Portland:

Northwest residents encouraged to speak with U.S. State Department at “Town Hall” meeting on future of the Columbia River and Treaty

Contact:

A broad coalition of conservation, sports, and fishing organizations today delivered a letter to the State Department asking for important changes to the 1964 Columbia River Treaty, which the United States and Canada are currently renegotiating. They are also encouraging residents to speak on behalf of the Columbia River’s future at a State Department “Townhall meeting” to be held in Portland on September 6, 5:30-7 p.m., at the Bonneville Power Administration.

“The renegotiation of the treaty offers a unique opportunity to improve conditions in the river by ensuring treaty dams are operated to provide sufficient flows for the express purpose of helping salmon and the river’s ecosystem,” said Greg Haller, Executive Director for Pacific Rivers. “River health, ‘Ecosystem-based function’ needs to be added to the Columbia River Treaty, co-equal with the two existing primary purposes of the treaty: hydropower production and flood risk management. Millions of residents and electrical ratepayers expect balanced management of the region’s hydroelectric facilities to ensure salmon populations recover and thrive. The treaty is an important prong of a basin-wide strategy for salmon recovery and we are asking the State Department for a course correction to improve river conditions in the U.S. and Canada for the benefit of fish, wildlife and people.”

In a letter sent to the lead negotiator, Jill Smail, U.S. Department of State, the requests include:

  • Protect and enhance the immense value of the Columbia Basin ecosystem by recognizing it as an authorized purpose of a modernized treaty, co-equal with flood risk management and hydropower generation.
  • Expand the group that oversees Treaty implementation, called the “U.S. Entity” to include appropriate representation for ecosystem function. Now the U.S. Entity consists only of Bonneville Power Administration (hydropower) and the Army Corps of Engineers (flood risk management).
  • Create advisory committees of affected stakeholders and sovereigns to support the U.S. Entity in treaty implementation.
  • Reform the U.S. negotiating team to ensure balanced representation of the issues involved, including giving a voice to Ecosystem-based Function.
  • Support a review of flood risk management that is essential for better managing the system of dams to protect river health while protecting Portland and Vancouver, Washington.
  • Restore the bi-national Collaborative Modeling Workgroup to establish a shared information based so that both nations together can make informed decisions about the Columbia River.  

The Columbia River Treaty was originally ratified in 1964 to reduce the risk of floods in downstream cities like Portland, Oregon and to develop additional hydropower capacity. The Treaty resulted in building four major dams, three in British Columbia and one in Montana. Notably, consideration of the health of the Columbia River and its fish and wildlife populations were not included in the original Treaty. Not only did the construction of the dams result in the displacement of people, economies and cultures as a result of permanently flooded lands, it had a profound effect on salmon and other fish and wildlife species – and the communities that rely on them – on both sides of the border.

“For 17 days the world watched as the mother orca Talequah carrying her dead calf for a thousand miles, reminding us how precious and fragile is life that depends on Columbia River salmon,” said John Osborn, a physician who coordinates Sierra Club’s Columbia River Future Project. “River temperatures are rising, returning salmon face ever more massive die-offs, glaciers are melting and forests are burning. In this time of climate change we call upon the State Department to represent the values of the people of the Northwest in protecting and restoring the Columbia River. Water is life. ”

At its heart, Ecosystem-based Function is a way to achieve a healthier river and healthier fish and wildlife populations. It means operational changes that provide additional water during low and moderate flow years in the spring and summer to increase survival of juvenile salmon migrating downstream to the Pacific Ocean. It also includes fish passage and reintroduction of salmon above Grand Coulee Dam and into Canada, and to stop using the Upper Columbia River as a sacrifice zone.

More about the U.S. State Department’s Town Hall meeting in Portland:

The Columbia River Treaty Town Hall meeting is open to the public, and will take place in Portland at the Bonneville Power Administration’s Rates Hearing Room 1201 Llyod Blvd, Suite 200 (11th Avenue/Holladay Park Max light rail stop), from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.  This Townhall will follow the August 15–16 round of negotiations on the Treaty regime in British Columbia and take place in advance of the October 17–18 round of negotiations in Portland, Oregon.  For more information on the Town Hall, including call-in details, please see the Federal Register Notice.

Links:

 

 

 


State Dept “Town Hall” meeting on Columbia River Treaty, future

The United States and Canada are negotiating the Columbia River Treaty. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to help protect and restore the Columbia River. On September 6, the U.S. State Department will give you an opportunity to provide input. Please take time to attend this Town Hall meeting – for the River and life that depends on the River.

When: Sept 6, 5:30 – 7 p.m.

Where: Portland, Bonneville Power Administration’s Rates Hearing Room, 1201 Llyod Blvd, Suite 200 (across the street from the current BPA Building)

Treaty Town Hall:  messages for the State Department

Below are suggested messages that may help you in developing your own personal message to deliver to the State Department’s negotiating team for the Columbia River Treaty:

RIGHTING HISTORIC WRONGS.  On June 14, 1940, 10,000 indigenous people from throughout the Northwest gathered at Kettle Falls for the “Ceremony of Tears” to mourn the loss of ancestral fishing grounds soon to be flooded by Grand Coulee dam. Adding Ecosystem-based Function to the Treaty as a primary purpose would include restoring salmon above Grand Coulee dam. (Credit: UW Special Collections)

(1) “Ecosystem-based Function” must be included as a new primary purpose of a new Columbia River Treaty – co-equal with power production and flood management. At its heart, ecosystem-based function is a way to achieve a healthier river and healthier fish and wildlife populations. It means operational changes that provide additional water during low and moderate flow years in the spring and summer to increase survival of juvenile salmon migrating downstream to the Pacific Ocean. It also includes fish passage and reintroduction of salmon above Grand Coulee Dam and into Canada.  The world watched as the mother orca Talequah carried her dead baby for 17 days 1,000 miles, calling attention to the starving orcas of Puget Sound — and once again underscoring the importance of Columbia River salmon. 

(2) The River needs a voice during Treaty negotiations.  The U.S. should add a representative for “ecosystem function” to the Treaty negotiating team. 

(3)  The U.S. and Canada have excluded tribes and First Nations from the negotiating teams — and this needs to be corrected.  Under the laws of both countries it is clear this this Treaty impacts the shared resources held by tribes in the U.S., as well as those resources in Canada to which rights and title have not been extinguished.

(4) The River needs a voice during Treaty implementation.  U.S. should add a new, third representative to the “U.S. Entity” that can represent the river’s ecosystem needs during treaty implementation.

The U.S. Entity today includes just two federal dam agencies – BPA and ACOE – neither has a record as a responsible steward of natural resources like wild salmon and steelhead, lamprey and other species. The U.S. Entity must include a new voice for the river and its health.

(5) Citizen input is needed.  The U.S. should create an advisory committee to the U.S. Entity that allows stakeholders to understand and share information about the operation of the Treaty dams, and their impacts on communities and natural resources.

(6) Make informed decisions using a shared, transparent information base.  Create a common analytic base between both nations and all those affected by re-establishing the collaborative modeling workgroup.

(7) We need best options for flood risk management.  Residents in the greater Portland and Vancouver metropolitan area want to understand the costs, benefits and tradeoffs from today’s flood management strategies – as well as possible alternatives. In order to prepare, the U.S. Army Corps should conduct a basin-wide review of flood risk management.

*

For further Information, contact:


Patagonia to host Tribal film

Film:  United by Water

July 12,  7 p.m.  Patagonia Seattle  2100 1st Ave, Seattle 

RSVP BEFORE and receive a free raffle ticket at the door.


  • Orcas depend on Columbia River salmon for survival. 
  • Seattle is powered partly by Columbia River dams. 
  • The Trump and Trudeau Administrations are excluding tribes, First Nations from treaty negotiations about the future of the Columbia River. 
  • This film is timely, and we encourage you to attend and meet with tribal leaders.  Indigenous people need our help.

“The River is sacred.  People will put aside their differences when it comes to the River and bringing back the salmon.”

                 – the late Virgil Seymour (1958 – 2016) Arrow Lakes (Sinixt) Facilitator for The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT) presents this documentary about canoe journeys on the Upper Columbia River, using dugout canoes from 800-hundred-year-old cedar logs, and the emotional historic landing at Kettle Falls, among the world’s richest salmon-fishing sites flooded when Grand Coulee Dam was constructed. 

DR Michel and John Sirois of UCUT will talk about work of tribes (US) and First Nations (Canada), including the need for Columbia River tribes to be at the negotiation table as the U.S. Dept of State re-negotiates with Canada the Columbia River Treaty.  Negotiations began May 29 in Washington DC.  We’ll have postcards to write/send to our Congressional representatives, asking them to hold accountable the State Department to give tribes a place at the table, and give a voice to the River and salmon. We hope to see you there.

Watch the trailer.


More about “United by Water”

76 years after the Ceremony of Tears, and the last salmon at Kettle Falls – United by Water reaches back, reconnecting with time immemorial to help us unite together for the River and for salmon.

On June 14, 1940, thousands of Native Americans from throughout the Northwest gathered at Kettle Falls – thunderous waterfalls and one of the world’s richest salmon fishing sites – for a three-day “Ceremony of Tears” to mourn the loss of their ancestral fishing grounds, soon to be flooded by Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River.  “United by Water” documents the journey of five tribal communities to Kettle Falls, the fishing site of their ancestors, in the growing struggle to return salmon to the Upper Columbia and reclaim the lives and future for indigenous people.

The film, produced by the Upper Columbia United Tribes, headquartered in Spokane, shows breathtaking archival footage of the last salmon ceremony on the Columbia prior to the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. It then documents the inspiring 2016 journey on the river – the building of the dugout canoes, the physical and spiritual journey on the Columbia River, and finally the emotional historic landing at Kettle Falls.

United by Water will show at Patagonia Seattle on July 12, 7 p.m.

Representatives from the Upper Columbia United Tribes who appear in the film, D.R. Michel and John Sirois, will speak after the screening about their work, the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty, the impact of the dams on salmon, and the annual canoe journeys on the River, utilizing dug out canoes.

UCUT.jpg

The award-winning documentary highlights the need to recognize the importance of reconnecting to the Columbia River and restoring salmon runs. Not only does the film bring attention to the historic wrongs that blocked salmon from the Upper Columbia River, but it shares the current efforts by UCUT and other tribes (US) and First Nations (Canada) to bring forward tribal traditions to help better understand what is lacking in our contemporary society. We need to forge a deeper connection to the waters that bring life to our communities.

The film comes at a critical time as the US government has begun renegotiating the Columbia River Treaty and indigenous nations are advocating to the U.S. State Department their rightful place at the negotiation table to give voice to the Columbia River, salmon, and people of the river.

Partners of this film screening include the Upper Columbia United Tribes, Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Sierra Club’s Columbia River Future Project, Save Our Wild Salmon, Columbia Institute for Water Policy, and the Backbone Campaign.  Admission is by donation to the Backbone Campaign, with no one turned away for lack of funds.   Proceeds will help go to support the Tribes’ River Warriors project.

Film co-sponsored by:

 

 

 


Remembering Vanport Flood’s double tragedy

News Release: May 23, 2018

4:05 p.m. Memorial Day: A moment of silence to remember the double tragedy of the Vanport Flood

Canadians, impacted by resulting Treaty, ask Americans to rethink flood risk management in the lower Columbia River Basin

Canadian-United States Treaty Negotiations to start May 29 – the day following Vanport Flood memorial

Reporter Contacts:

Without warning, on Memorial Day 1948, a combination of heavy winter snowfall, warm temperatures, and spring rainfall sent torrents down the Columbia River, breaking through a railroad embankment serving as a levee, and destroying Oregon’s second largest city, Vanport, near Portland. Built in the floodplain of the Columbia River close to the confluence with the Willamette River, Vanport provided housing for thousands of low-income people. The floodwaters killed at least fifteen people, left 18,000 others homeless, and washed away the community.

The governments of the United States and Canada seized on the Vanport flood to promote a treaty that would authorize dams upstream in British Columbia and Montana, eventually forcing thousands of residents from their homes, and permanently flooding vast river valleys of the Upper Columbia River Basin. Particularly devastating for indigenous people who had lived in the Columbia River Valley for thousands of years was loss of burial grounds and cultural sites, compounding the loss of massive salmon runs caused by Grand Coulee dam. And now, on the 70th anniversary of the Vanport Flood, the United States and Canada are entering into negotiations to modernize that agreement known as the Columbia River Treaty.

“Recognizing the double tragedy impacting thousands of people in Vanport and subsequently in our Canadian and First Nations communities in the Upper Columbia River, we ask for a moment of silence on Memorial Day,” said Mindy Smith, a physician living near Trail, British Columbia. “We also ask that each Memorial Day going forward, we pause to remember and reflect on this double disaster and how people of the Basin are bound together by more than a treaty, but by our need and responsibility to seek equity of benefits and costs in river management.”

The Vanport Flood and its devastating consequences for the upper Columbia River Basin was the focus of a 2016 conference, One River – Ethics Matter, hosted by the University of Portland. This was part of the conference series of Columbia River reconciliation based on the 2001 Columbia River Pastoral Letter by the Roman Catholic Bishops of the international watershed. Highlights of the Portland conference focusing on the Vanport Flood can be viewed on a short film: Portland: One River – Ethics Matter.

“As negotiators for the United States and Canada prepare to sit down to discuss the future of the River, the double tragedy of the Vanport Flood needs to be remembered,” said Martin Carver of Nelson B.C. and coordinator of the Upper Columbia Basin Environmental Collaborative. “With continued floodplain development in the Portland area and elsewhere, and with escalating risks from climate change, the scope of the floodplain problem going forward will only increase.   Americans should not continue to rely on the devastation of upstream ecosystems and communities to allow for downstream floodplain development in Portland. That is fundamentally unjust and cannot be sustained.”

“The Columbia River is one river and ethics matter,” said John Osborn, physician and coordinator of the Columbia River Roundtable. “Past decisions have located people and structures in harm’s way by building in downriver floodplains while permanently flooding upriver valleys with dams and reservoirs – once biologically and culturally rich river valleys now wastelands. The Treaty dams are not going away. But we need to rethink dam management to improve river health and restore salmon runs while protecting communities. That is a compelling legacy of the Vanport Flood double tragedy.”

The moment of silence is scheduled for 4:05p.m. PDT on Memorial Day (U.S.)   The next day, May 29, in Washington D.C., the United States and Canada will begin formal negotiations to modernize the Columbia River Treaty. (link)

Links:

 

Vanport, Oregon – photo from BlackPast.org