Native Case Studies

Enduring Legacies Native Cases
The Salmon They are My Brothers: A Story of the Lower Snake River Dams
Kathleen M. Saul

The era of federal dam building in the United States spanned the decades from the 1930s through the 1960s. The results were profound. Rocky rapids and side channels of rivers vanished below millions of acre-feet of slack water. Tribal villages and usual and accustomed fishing sites disappeared. Electricity coursed through wires to population centers like Seattle, WA, and Portland, OR, and towns throughout Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Water pumped from the rivers opened up the dry lands of eastern Washington to farmers growing wheat, peas, apples, and grapes. The dams also affected the rivers’ inhabitants. Populations of the once abundant and culturally significant salmon and steelhead plummeted. In recent years, tribes in the Pacific Northwest have rallied behind the cry to remove many of those hydroelectric dams. This case examines the story of dams on the Lower Snake River. It ends by asking “What actions should be taken to restore a healthy salmon population to the Lower Snake?” Drawing on information about successful and ongoing dam removals on the Elwha, Klamath, and Skagit Rivers, and the case itself, readers learn about the challenges and advantages of dam removal and what removals could mean for salmon.