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Dams of the Columbia Basin & Their Effects on the Native Fishery

Bonneville * The Dalles * John Day & McNary * Priest Rapids & Wanapum * Rock Island, Rocky Reach, Wells & Chief Joseph * Grand Coulee * Ice Harbor, Lower Monument, Little Goose & Lower Granite * Hells Canyon, Oxbow, Brownlee & Dworshak * Revelstoke, Keenleyside, Mica & Duncan

Bonneville under construction. Courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers

Images of Bonneville Dam and the Cascade Rapids

Bonneville Dam: Columbia River, at mile marker 146.1, completed 1938, second power house built in 1982. Federally-owned hydroelectric dam, concrete gravity overflow, fish ladder, spillway of 1450 feet, 18 gates. This dam set the precedent for hydroelectric power dams in the Pacific Northwest.

[The] fish ladders at Bonneville . . . were successful to a degree. Successful enough to lull the public into a sense of security. It was a great showcase. People drove up the river on Sunday to watch the salmon go up the ladders. It was most reassuring.
-- Crisis on the Columbia, Oral Bullard

Bonneville inundated Cascade Falls, a native fishery of great importance. The first engineered impact to the Cascades came between 1876 and 1914 when the Corps of Engineers built the Cascade Locks.

In the early days before the Cascade Locks were built, seal came up the river, which were used for food and oil . . . there used to be a channel right where the Cascade Locks are located, where the Indians fished.
-- Robert Smith, Warm Springs, 1937

Cascade Locks. Courtesy Army Corps of Engineers

Bonneville Dam inundated thirty-five native fishing sites. The Army Corps of Engineers promised Cascade, Yakama, and Wasco Indians who fished at the falls replacement fishing sites, a promise that has only recently begun to be fulfilled. Roberta Ulrich, author of Empty Nets, writes that the replacement sites are a fitting "metaphor for this country's treatment of native people. The delay in replacing the sites carries all the elements of cultural arrogance, hostility and, at bottom, indifference that has marked so much of white Americans' dealings with those who were here first."