Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho


The push to mobilize a protest continues for grain shippers and others whose livelihoods would be affected by the abandonment of the Camas RailNet line from Spalding to Grangeville. A group of about 30 local government officials, shippers and tribal representatives met recently in Grangeville to discuss strategies and plan to voice concerns. Camas RailNet announced plans in January to abandon the 66.5-mile spur on the Camas Prairie. Although it has not released its operating costs, railroad officials said it is too expensive to maintain the line, which includes nearly 50 trestles and climbs an altitude of 3,000 feet. The company had not filed an application to abandon the line by late March, the due date was April 1. Shippers on the Camas Prairie say if the rail goes, all grain and lumber from the area would have to be transported by truck and that would increase their costs by thousands of dollars. Bill Roper, manager of Union Warehouse at Grangeville, said if the rail is shut down, farmers on the Camas Prairie would probably not be able to raise malt barley used in beer brewing because of the added handling and freight costs.

A preliminary ruling that four Snake River dams may violate the federal Clean Water Act could boost efforts to breach the dams to help restore salmon runs. "This confirms that the Clean Water Act is the law, not just an aspirational policy as the Corps (of Engineers) has treated it for the past 30 years," said David Cummings, attorney for the tribe, one of the plaintiffs in the case. "We look forward to the court's review of the operation of the four lower Snake River dams." U.S. District Judge Helen Frye cited evidence the dams operated by the Corps could violate water-quality standards by increasing the river's temperature and dissolved gases. She called for more records before making a final ruling. The Corps has denied dam operations violate the standards. Conservationists predicted huge costs to bring the four dams into compliance with the act, ranging from $460 million to $900 million. The corps is set to make a recommendation later this year on whether the dams, which provide irrigation and hydroelectric power to the region, should be breached. Congress will make the final decision. Among groups in the case are Idaho Rivers United and the Idaho Wildlife Federation.

The tribe is attempting to supplement the wild chinook salmon population in Johnson Creek by collecting adult eggs and raising them to smolt or reach juvenile size in hatcheries. It also supplements wild populations by allowing limited numbers of hatchery fish to spawn in the wild. To restore self-sustaining salmon populations in the Columbia and Snake rivers, biologists say changes need to be made in four basic areas of human-caused threats to salmon survival: Hydroelectric dams, habitat degradation, harvest by fishermen and hatchery practices. Supplementation programs are designed to shift hatcheries from simply increasing salmon numbers for fishermen to using them to boost the number of wild fish. If the salmon go extinct, the Pacific Northwest will lose an icon of the area's wild character one that still provides millions of dollars to the region's economy through fishing and tourism. If four dams on the Snake River in Washington are breached which biologists say is the best measure to save salmon shipping on the river to Lewiston will end. The region would lose 5 percent of its electricity capacity, enough to power Seattle. If dams are not breached more water must be taken from Idaho reservoirs to speed flows through the dams, limiting development near salmon-spawning rivers.