Guest column: Judge was right to dismiss the Pelton Project lawsuit
Aug 20, 2018
BY EUGENE “AUSTIN” GREENE JR.
My Indian name is Mustalik. I am a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon and am privileged to serve as chairman of the Tribal Council. I come from the Wasco and Warm Springs people on the Columbia River, and I write to address issues raised in The Bulletin’s recent editorial, “Judge deals blow to enviro group in local dam lawsuit,” and a guest column in response to that editorial from the group that filed the lawsuit.
Since time immemorial, my people have depended on the fisheries of the Columbia River and its tributaries, including the Deschutes River. We are a salmon people, and as the Supreme Court observed over a century ago, those fish are as necessary to our existence and survival as the atmosphere we breathe. Together, water and salmon are among the first gifts of the Creator.
We are also a “treaty tribe,” the successor to the Treaty with the Tribes of Middle Oregon of June 25, 1855. Our treaty ceded 10 million acres of land to the United
The Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project is partly within the Warm Springs Reservation. The tribe and state of Oregon share
During relicensing more than a decade ago, the tribe’s principal goal was the re-establishment of self-sustaining anadromous fish runs above the project. The tribe and PGE led a multiparty, collaborative decision-making process, resulting in a settlement agreement that served as the foundation for the new federal license for the project. The tribe’s goal of fish passage was a centerpiece of both the settlement and the license.
As a result of major investments from the tribe and PGE, the project is now passing fish, and we are on our way to achieving our goal of returning the fish to their home. We recognize there is still much to do to improve conditions on the Deschutes River, both above and below the project. Science undeniably tells us, however, that the ecological function of the river is improving.
We manage the basin’s water resources for the benefit of the next seven generations of our people. Managing the Deschutes River is complex and requires patience, cooperation, respect
We can achieve better outcomes through collaborative, interest-based decision-making instead of further litigation. That decision-making should consider the basin as the interrelated ecological system it is and resist the temptation to focus on the parochial interests of individual stakeholders. Viewed in that context, Judge Simon and The Bulletin got it right. The tribe and PGE are managing the Pelton Project consistent with the law, our cultural teachings and the spirit of collaboration, and river conditions are improving. It is not for the courts to decide to the future of the Deschutes River. It is up to all of us.
— Eugene “Austin” Greene Jr. serves as chairman of the Tribal Council of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.
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