Restoring Interior BC salmon

The federal and provincial governments have signed an agreement with the Syilx Okanagan, Ktunaxa and Secwepemc First Nations to commit to work on bringing salmon back to the Canadian portion of the Upper Columbia River Basin.

Since the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State in the 30s and 40s, salmon have been blocked from the upper portion of the Columbia River, leading to their extirpation from more than 1,000 kilometres of waterways between the dam and river headwaters in the Rocky Mountains.

Additionally, Columbia River sockeye can currently get no further into Canada than the Okanagan River Dam in Penticton.

“The restoration of salmon to all parts of the territory, including that of the Upper Columbia, is part of our inherent rights and responsibilities as Syilx Okanagan People,” said Chief Chad Eneas of the Penticton Indian Band. 

“ntityix (Chief Salmon) is one of our Four Food Chiefs, and a central part of securing Syilx food sovereignty. Moving forward we are dedicated that these efforts not just use the best, cutting edge science, but also align with Syilx Okanagan traditional knowledge, cultural beliefs and practices for successful return of salmon, protection of our waters and the health of the planet”.

Parliamentary Secretary of Global Affairs Canada, Pamela Goldsmith Jones says the loss of salmon migratory access to the Canadian portion of the Upper Columbia River has been a longstanding concern for them.

“I’m pleased that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with the Province of B.C. is working with the Syilx Okanagan, Ktunaxa and Secwepemc Indigenous Nations on this significant project. The signing of this important agreement is the first step in a multi-staged process to explore how salmon can be reintroduced back into this important watershed.”

The agreement signed Monday in Castlegar will guide an effort that will work alongside the current negotiations to modernize the Columbia River Treaty.

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