Portland, Oregon– The proposed railroad expansion along the Columbia River would have unacceptable effects on tribal treaty fishing rights. That was the message delivered yesterday by the Columbia River Gorge Commission when it voted to uphold Wasco County’s denial of Union Pacific’s proposed riverside track expansion along the Columbia River near Mosier, Oregon.
The Warm Springs, Umatilla, Yakama and Nez Perce tribes have strongly opposed new or expanded fossil fuel transport and expansion projects throughout the Columbia River basin. The tribes have asserted in multiple venues that these projects place unacceptable risks on the tribal treaty fishery, endanger the communities along the Columbia River and violate tribal treaty rights.
“These actions demonstrate that treaty rights matter in the decisions being made throughout the Columbia River Gorge,” said Leland Bill Chairman of Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “The 2016 Mosier derailment was an eye-opener for a lot of people. Yet, the Mosier rail expansion places more risk on people and fish for the convenience of Union Pacific. The tribal fishing families living along both sides of the Columbia River are already burdened by the daily risk of these projects. Too many tribal members have lost their lives attempting to cross railroad tracks and we are working to ensure that we don’t lose anymore.”
“Tribal members have a right to access the Columbia River to exercise their treaty fishing rights in a safe manner,” explained Austin Greene, Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon. “This expansion would hinder our ability to access the river, jeopardize the safety of our tribal fishers, and put the health of the treaty-protected fishery at risk. The Gorge Commission has done the right thing. It is a good day for our treaty rights and sovereignty.”
The proposed Union Pacific rail expansion near Mosier, Oregon was originally denied a permit by Wasco County late last year. That decision was then appealed to the Columbia River Gorge Commission.