For Immediate Release: Monday, May 23, 2022


Mitch Cutter, Salmon & Steelhead Associate, (541) 280-8474  

Abby Urbanek, Communications Manager, (208) 345-6933 x 214

Regional leaders discuss lower Snake River dam removal at third annual Salmon Orca Summit

Industry experts, Tribal leaders and conservation advocates gathered to discuss the removal of the four lower Snake River dams and the future of salmon, orcas, and the region.

SPOKANE, WA – On May 20, the Idaho Conservation League (ICL) attended the third Tribal-led Salmon Orca Summit to share perspectives, honor the iconic salmon and orcas of the Pacific Northwest, and call for Tribal justice. Panelists and Tribal representatives discussed the impacts of the four lower Snake River dams and the opportunity we have to remove them and forge a better path forward for the Pacific Northwest. 

“Northwest Tribes have been clear: the time for justice is now,” said ICL’s Salmon & Steelhead Associate Mitch Cutter. “It’s time to stop demanding sacrifices from those who’ve already had so much taken away from them. It’s time to make everyone whole and fundamentally change our approach to salmon recovery in the region.”

The Tribal-led event featured panel discussions, performances, and voices from the many communities who live, work, play, and rely on the Snake River. Tribal representatives from across the region spoke about the wider need for change in the Columbia River Basin. Salmon recovery around the Basin has been hampered by a lack of funding, a $1 billion backlog of maintenance projects, and failure to address reintroduction of salmon and steelhead into blocked areas of the Upper Columbia and Snake Rivers. Tribes do not have access to the fish they were promised in treaties and other agreements more than a century ago. 

The Nez Perce Tribe also discussed energy at the summit, announcing their plan to build a clean energy Tribe-to-Tribe utility cooperative, called Nimiipuu Energy. The cooperative will seek to generate enough electricity to replace the power produced by the four lower Snake River dams and create energy independence for other Tribes. The Nez Perce Tribe is planning to install more than 500 megawatts of solar energy paired with battery storage on its reservation and in surrounding communities by 2027. 

Nimiipuu Energy has already installed multiple solar projects on the Nez Perce Reservation and more are in development. “Our thought is that we, not just us as the Nez Perce Tribe but we as Tribes collectively can come together to generate that much power, to basically render those dams obsolete so that our fish runs can get back to the way they used to be,” said Jesse Leighton, executive director of the Nez Perce Tribe, in a video shared by Nimiipuu Energy.

ICL urges elected Northwest elected officials and the Biden-Harris Administration to heed this discussion and take action. Now is the time for salmon, orcas, and Tribal justice. We encourage the Congressional delegation, governors, and the Biden-Harris Administration to work together on a comprehensive, long-lasting legislative solution that breaches dams on the lower Snake River as a first step toward real salmon restoration and Tribal justice in the Columbia River Basin.