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Cd’A Tribe makes 10-year deal with feds

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | February 26, 2024 1:07 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — The Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Bonneville Power Administration announced a 10-year agreement meant to mitigate the destruction of salmon runs by federal dams.

“Today marks a significant moment in our relationship with BPA and recognizes the federal government’s responsibility to ensure that our traditional way of life is protected and restored,” Chief Allan, chairman of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, said in a news release issued Thursday.

The tribe will receive about $10.5 million per year for habitat improvement projects under the agreement, as well as $45 million to pay for capital projects.

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe will build two hatcheries to support fish species the tribe traditionally relied upon. The tribe will also be able to implement on-reservation projects that protect fish and wildlife to help sustain traditional fishing, hunting and gathering activities, according to a news release.

Tyrel Stevenson, legislative director for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, said the “monumental” settlement would mitigate the loss of access to fisheries that were blocked by dams on the Columbia and Spokane rivers.

“The salmon used to return to the Coeur d’Alene Reservation and the base of the Spokane Falls and they no longer do,” he said. “The tribe has been pushing for a long time to get the federal government to look into ways to restore that fishery, not to breach those dams but to figure out how to restore a salmon run and get salmon over those dams. This is a significant step in reaching that goal and restoring those historic runs.”

Salmon are an integral part of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s culture, Stevenson said. The tribe depended on salmon for survival.

But dams built by the federal government permanently blocked salmon from reaching the Coeur d’Alene Reservation.

“When those dams were constructed and there was no fish passage, that was just gone,” Stevenson said. “The tribe has been working ever since then to try and recover the loss of those fisheries. It’s an important part of the tribe’s identity.”

Last fall, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Spokane Tribe of Indians and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation also reached a 20-year, $200 million agreement to reintroduce salmon in blocked habitats in the Upper Basin.

The tribe said in a news release that the settlement will “begin correcting the historic wrongs suffered by the Coeur d’Alene” as a result of the construction of federal dams.