Portland, OR- Tribal leaders with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) and its four member tribes, the Warm Springs, Umatilla, Yakama and Nez Perce tribes stressed their concerns over the transport of fossil fuels through the Columbia River Gorge and the importance of rail safety, climate change policies and strong regional water quality standards in a meeting with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy. Administrator McCarthy is President Obama’s chief environmental advocate.
During the meeting, Warm Springs Tribal Council member and CRITFC chairman Carlos Smith expressed concerns for the state of Columbia Basin waterways. “Fish advisories, high rates of cancer, and polluted waters are plaguing our communities and our foods,” said Smith. “Addressing water quality issues must be a priority.”
“The fact that water is polluted is disturbing,” Administrator McCarthy responded. “That’s what got us into this business. The challenges are getting more complex. What isn’t complex is our commitment to clean water, air, and land.”
Kathryn Brigham, Umatilla Tribal Council member and commissioner for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, explained to EPA’s leadership the importance of working together to address the challenges facing the Columbia River basin. “We have been fighting very hard to get our resources protected and it’s not just for us, it is for our future generations,” Brigham explained. “But we can’t do it alone. We need work together through partnership and collaboration in order to make that happen.”
“EPA’s priority is to institutionalize what we have learned about working with the tribes,” McCarthy stated. “I work for a President who really believes that we have a tremendous amount of work to do and that our obligations with the tribes haven’t been met. We want to make sure the door he opened with you never gets shut.”
Administrator McCarthy met with tribal leaders in the Portland offices of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.