Free Celilo Falls or Coal Barges?

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Celilo Falls - Wyam - Photo from the archives of the Oregon Historical Society
Celilo Falls – Wyam – Photo from the archives of the Oregon Historical Society

Friends of Celilo Falls invited us to witness & testify in support of Celilo Falls at the Oregon DEQ public hearings regarding the proposed Ambre Energy Morrow Pacific Coal transfer facility held at the Oregon Convention Center this evening, July 9th, 2013.

Sean Cruz of Friends of Celilo Falls after giving testimony
Sean Aaron Cruz of Friends of Celilo Falls after giving testimony

Sean Aaron Cruz, Executive Director of Friends of Celilo Falls shared a powerful testimony.

…Friends of Celilo Falls, a
new nonprofit dedicated to seeing Celilo Falls restored and protected forever under the permanent stewardship of the Columbia River Treaty Tribes.

We do not speak for or represent any of the Columbia River Treaty tribes, but only for our own membership, and we will advocate for the reprioritization of uses of the Columbia Gorge, from an internationalized industrial route to a place, a very special place.

We have an alternative job creation strategy to the coal proposals, one that would create thousands of construction jobs and thousands of permanent jobs, dwarfing all of the coal export proposals all rolled up together. These jobs would benefit most of all those who are living and raising their families in and near the Gorge.

We are organizing now and planning to be active during the 2014-2024 Columbia River Treaty Review (which will decide the long-term future use of the River and the Gorge), educating the public and policy makers to the history of the ancient fishery at Celilo Falls, which was flooded in 1957 for barge passage, not for hydropower generation.

We oppose the construction of this facility and all future coal shipments through the
Columbia Gorge. We oppose the continued spending of billions of dollars in public subsidies that make barging on the mid-Columbia happen at all.

We want to see barging in the Columbia Gorge phased out entirely over the next ten years, and those billions of dollars of public funds used instead to build a different future.

We see a future Celilo – Wishram – Maryhill UNESCO World Heritage District in Oregon’s and Washington’s and the nation’s future, and while Celilo Falls and hydropower generation at The Dalles dam can coexist, Celilo Falls and barging cannot.

Governor Tom McCall quoted Governor Oswald West on passage of Oregon’s Beach Bill in the 1960s: “No local selfish interest should be permitted, through politics or otherwise, to destroy or even impair this great birthright of our people.”

We say, “Free Celilo Falls.”

For those who value place and a sustainable future it is an obvious choice.

Cynthia Vogel testified in support of Friends of Celilo Falls from the perspective of a multigenerational resident of the Columbia River Gorge and daughter of an industrialist and chemist who came to recognize the damage needing repair. Her father was instrumental in the formation of the Gorge Commission. As an industrialist this was not alway an easy process but serves as a powerful model illustrating the potential for business to have ethics and choose to protect resources and beauty rather than exploit it. She spoke of how we have already gone too far in our contributions to global warming and weakening the integrity of the Columbia Ecosystem and that the barges must be stopped. The facility should not be approved and Celilo Falls should be restored.

In my testimony I spoke of the fact that Celilo Falls is the historically most significant cultural site in our region as the largest volume waterfall in North America. It has been continuously occupied as an economic and cultural center for over 11,000 years. Its submersion was done against the will of our First Nations and is an ongoing act of cultural genocide. The falls are flooded for barge traffic alone and any barge traffic over the falls is complicit in this ongoing act of cultural genocide. We know from the Army Corp of Engineers that the Dalles Dam can continue to generate power with the head lowered to restore the falls. Treaty Tribal Nations have reserved the human right to fish and hunt and gather their traditional sustenance directly from their traditional homelands. We have an ethical and legal obligation to set the standard for environmental contaminants such that it is possible to eat wild caught and gathered foods without harm. The DEQ has failed in this responsibility. This is not possible today because of mercury contamination in our fish. The primary source of this contamination is coal.

A full copy of my written Testimony in opposition to the Ambre Energy Point of Morrow Coal Transfer facility is here.

Testimony in opposition to the Ambre Energy Point of Morrow / Pacific Coal Transfer Facility Application
Submitted by Treothe Joseph Bullock to Oregon DEQ
Portland, Oregon
July 12th, 2013

I write to you today as a longstanding citizen of Oregon and the greater Cascadian Bioregion. My family originally came into the region in the covered wagon days and has a deep connection to the land. One branch of the family came into the region fleeing genocide against our First Nations in Mapuche country of what is now Argentina and Chile. I write as a grandparent, an ecologist, an artist and a teacher. I write as a survivor of genocide as well as a dreamer for a future we can all embrace. I also speak as a Board Member of the Celilo Falls Restoration Fund and a supporter of the Friends of Celilo Falls. Currently I teach Chemistry and Biology at Benson High School here in Portland, Oregon.

First I want to address the lack of ethical or scientific legitimacy that exists in the scope of what the DEQ is allowing for consideration as the basis of their decision. It is my understanding that you are only considering the applications merits based on coal dust exposure levels at the covered facility itself. While the application may legitimately appear to comply with the letter of such existing regulatory frameworks it cannot meet the spirit or intent of those regulations and should be refused.

The Columbia River Basin is an ecosystem in distress, which has been collapsing and is under great stresses as recovery efforts proceed to stop the collapse and restore failed sections of the system. Salmon, the signature keystone species of the region is a symbol for the whole system. Stresses on salmon come from multiple sources, which include an ongoing desertification process that stems from weakening of our forests, urban and agricultural development. The water itself is stressed from increased heat, reduced shade, historic pollution loads and ongoing pollution inputs from agriculture, industry, street and home run offs. Of those chemical loads mercury has been concentrating in our fish so that it has not been safe to exist on the traditional indigenous diet of salmon for decades. It has been documented that toxic loads from such a diet have led to birth defects and higher cancer and mortality rates among our First Nations. Salmon are an endangered species and there are legal requirement to address the recovery of salmon.

Because historic and ongoing atmospheric depositions of mercury from coal transport and burning have made it impossible to eat wild caught salmon safely as a subsistence food and there can be no legitimate level of added toxins, no matter how small. The entire system is poisoned and this must be addressed in a meaningful way before giving consideration to any level of increased toxic loads.
It is my hope that the unique burden of mercury from coal, which already exists in our bioregion, leads you to contextualize the added impacts of transport of coal to your decision about the proposed facility at Point Morrow.

The Treaty Tribal Nations have reserved the human right to fish and hunt and gather their traditional sustenance directly from their traditional homelands. We have an ethical and legal obligation to set the standard for environmental contaminants such that it is possible to eat wild caught and gathered foods without harm. The DEQ has failed in this responsibility. This is not possible today because of mercury contamination in our fish. The primary source of this contamination is coal. The ongoing knowing poisoning of traditional food sources can readily be interpreted as active physical genocide, which there is no acceptable level of tolerance for.

A second issue, which I would like to address, is the barge transport itself. Celilo Falls is the historically most significant cultural site in our region as the largest volume waterfall in North America. It has been continuously occupied as a spiritual, economic and cultural center for over 11,000 years. Its submersion was done against the will of our First Nations and is an ongoing act of cultural genocide. These nations have been forced by the US military monopoly on violence that has led to their historic acceptance of these violations, despite their historic best efforts to stop them. Please review the UN International Treaty on Genocide, which is US Treaty Law! The US Army Corp of Engineers openly admits to its knowing destruction of the most culturally significant site in our region, which is clearly defined as genocide in the treaty! The falls are flooded for barge traffic alone and any barge traffic over the falls is complicit in this ongoing act of cultural genocide. Are you as an agency willing to continue your complicity in this crime?

The Friends of Celilo Falls have laid out a powerful transition plan which involves restoring the falls to Mid Columbia Treaty Tribe management and the development of a recreational corridor that would bring potential UNESCO World Heritage Site status to the region and a host of sustainable ecotourism related jobs beyond the initial construction and restoration jobs. We have an alternate healing vision for our region. The refusal of this permit and a full commitment to the restoration of our waters, salmon and Celilo Falls is what is needed.

We know from the Army Corp of Engineers that the Dalles Dam can continue to generate power with the head lowered to restore the falls. This was proposed during the bicentennial anniversary of Lewis & Clark. The opportunity costs of committing to more publicly subsidized barge traffic, which is illegal to begin with in this Human Rights context, and which will prevent necessary restoration is unacceptable. Please refuse this application.

Thank you for giving this testimony you full consideration.

Sincerely,

Treothe Bullock

Oregon’s Governor John Kitzhaber understands the wider systemic impacts of coal and he has called for a national systemic Environmental Impact Statement before allowing these plans of Ambre Energy to go forward. He points out that the majority of mercury contamination of our fish originates from overseas burning transported through the atmosphere. He is currently limited by regulatory law which was initially put in place so that it would appear much is being done while money gets its way. We need to keep vigilant and get creative. Check out his letter to the feds.

The people held their own hearings outside – here is some of what we are saying.

Click on any photo to view a slide gallery.

Friends of Celilo Falls

Celilo Falls Restoration Fund

Communities Against Coal Export

Submit your own comments to the DEQ here by July 12th

Other Posts related to Celilo Falls on this site

2 Comments

Add yours →

  1. Harold Rhenisch July 10, 2013 — 7:04 am

    I would soooo make an annual pilgrimage to the falls, that’s for sure.

  2. We believe it could well happen in our life time – that will be a fine day when she is freed once again… what a celebration the water spirits will be having!

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