Merkley, Wyden Announce $5 Million to Northwest Tribes to Restore Sockeye Salmon Habitat Connectivity at the Wallowa Lake Dam

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and
Ron Wyden announce a total of $ 5,041,495 million from the National Fish and
Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) will be awarded to the Nez Perce Tribe, in
partnership with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
(CTUIR) and other partners, to restore sockeye salmon habitat connectivity at
the Wallowa Lake Dam. 

“Sockeye salmon are important not just to the culture of the
CTUIR and Nez Perce Tribe but to the entire Pacific Northwest,” said Senator Merkley, who chairs the Senate
Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which funded the program. “So we
all owe a debt to these tribes, who are helping restore the 100 year old
Wallowa Lake Dam to restore sockeye salmon populations in Northeastern Oregon.
This federal funding will help increase river flows, which will benefit not
just the fish populations, but nearby communities as well through increased
recreation opportunities, the protection of drinking water sources, and support
for ranchers and growers during times of droughts.” 

“This $5 million federal investment to restore sockeye
salmon in Oregon’s northeastern corner marks a significant win for fish and the
tribes working hard to build back this natural connection,” Wyden said. “This win for the Wallowa
Lake Dam also will ripple out into gains for recreation, clean water and river
flows that will help ranchers and farmers to weather droughts.”

NFWF announced nearly $91 million in grants through the new
America the Beautiful Challenge (ATBC), funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure
and other federal conservation programs and private sources. This
$5,041,495 grant will enable a collaboration among two federally recognized
Tribes, an irrigation district, and the State of Oregon to complete
rehabilitation of the Wallowa Lake Dam to balance rural community resilience
and economic benefit with improved aquatic habitat connectivity for at-risk
fish through engineering and construction at the high-hazard dam to connect
hundreds of miles of sockeye salmon spawning habitat.  

Merkley and Wyden sent
a letter
to NFWF’s Chairman, J. Michael Cline, spotlighting their support
for the Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation and Wallowa River Restoration Project.
Senator Merkley, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and
Senator Wyden were able to secure $2 million in the Fiscal Year 2022 spending
bill for the Wallowa Lake Dam Rehabilitation project to support this important