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Comments on HJM-15 Celilo Falls feasibility study

April 13, 2015

From: The Friends of Celilo Falls


State Representative Brian Clem, Committee Chair
House Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use and Water
Oregon State Capitol
By email

RE: HJM 15 Celilo Falls feasibility study

Dear Chair Clem and Members of the Committee:

The Friends of Cellilo Falls is a new public benefit nonprofit organization registered in Oregon.

We are tribal and nontribal people with a shared vision: to see the ancient tribal fishery centered at Celilo Falls—along with the vast archaeological/cultural area that surrounds it—restored and protected forever under the permanent stewardship of the Columbia River tribes.

We do not speak for any of the tribes or for the people at Celilo Village—the oldest continuously-inhabited settlement in North America—but only for our own membership, and for future generations of human beings, for our own great grandchildren.

We support HJM 15, the call for a feasibility study of a temporary lowering of Lake Celilo to reveal Celilo Falls, but will likely oppose any actual temporary lowering.

We also would respectfully ask for an amendment at line 16, inserting “in consultation with and with the permission of the Columbia River tribes with treaty rights to the areas affected” after “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

We are aware that the 2014-2024 Columbia River Treaty Review is under way, a process that will determine the long-term future of how the River is managed, and encourage the Committee to examine the issue of Celilo Falls in the context of the Treaty Review.

The Final Recommendation of the Northwest Entity to the U.S. State Department is to add “ecosystem function” as a third fundamental purpose of the treaty between the United States and Canada. The Friends of Celilo Falls supports this recommendation, as well as those elements that improve fish passage, fish habitat and water quality, that speed the flow of the River, and that respect the treaty rights of the Columbia River tribes.

We are aware that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration and other participants in the Treaty Review have been modeling future projections taking into account a warming climate and reduced snow pack, and we respectfully request that the Committee ask for that information as part of the feasibility study.

We are aware that the modeling compares the rate at which the River flows currently (450,000 cfs as measured at The Dalles) and at a projected 600,000 cfs, and we respectfully ask the Committee to consider that information in the feasibility study.

We hope that the Committee’s work on this issue will lead to the 2015 Legislative Assembly taking a formal position on the 2014 – 2024 Columbia River Treaty Review, and sending that statement to Oregon’s Congressional delegation and others, as the legislature deems appropriate.

We ask the Committee to consider this line from Senate Concurrent Resolution 10 (2007), a statement mourning the loss of Celilo Falls, co-sponsored by Senator Avel Gordly and then-Speaker of the House Jeff Merkley:

“Whereas on March 10, 1957, the waters held back by The Dalles Dam flooded and silenced the awesome and sacred roar of Celilo Falls, severing a great spiritual connection between the Creator, Mother Earth and the Native Peoples of Oregon;”

We ask the Committee to consider the issue and opportunities of restoring and protecting Celilo Falls and the Columbia Gorge as similar to Oregon’s Beach Bill of the 1960s, and this line by former Governor Oswald West and cited by former Governor Tom McCall (updated, as the present and future threats to the Columbia Gorge are not local, but distant):

“No… selfish interest should be permitted, through politics or otherwise, to destroy or even impair this great birthright of our people.”

We ask the Committee to consider the testimony in Senate Judiciary Committee and the statements on the Senate floor regarding SJM 7 and SCR 10 as the 2007 Legislative Assembly collectively mourned the loss of Celilo Falls:

Oregon Senate Mourns the Flooding of Celilo Falls

Mourning the loss of Celilo Falls: tribal members speak to Oregon Senate Judiciary

We ask the Committee to consider also the role of Oregon’s Environmental Justice Task Force in these discussions, created by Senator Avel Gordly’s SB 420 (2007), sections 3-5:

SECTION 3. The Environmental Justice Task Force shall:

(1) Advise the Governor on environmental justice issues;
(2) Advise natural resource agencies on environmental justice issues, including community concerns and public participation processes;
(3) Identify, in cooperation with natural resource agencies, minority and low-income communities that may be affected by environmental decisions made by the agencies;
(4) Meet with environmental justice communities and make recommendations to the Governor regarding concerns raised by these communities; and
(5) Define environmental justice issues in the state.

SECTION 4. In order to provide greater public participation and to ensure that all persons affected by decisions of the natural resource agencies have a voice in those decisions, each natural resource agency shall:

(1) In making a determination whether and how to act, consider the effects of the action on environmental justice issues.
(2) Hold hearings at times and in locations that are convenient for people in the communities that will be affected by the decisions stemming from the hearings.
(3) Engage in public outreach activities in the communities that will be affected by decisions of the agency.
(4) Create a citizen advocate position that is responsible for:
(a) Encouraging public participation;
(b) Ensuring that the agency considers environmental justice issues; and
(c) Informing the agency of the effect of its decisions on communities traditionally underrepresented in public processes.

SECTION 5. All directors of natural resource agencies, and other agency directors as the Governor may designate, shall report annually to the Environmental Justice Task Force and to the Governor on the results of the agenciesefforts to:

(1) Address environmental justice issues;
(2) Increase public participation of individuals and communities affected by agenciesdecisions;
(3) Determine the effect of the agenciesdecisions on traditionally underrepresented communities; and
(4) Improve plans to further the progress of environmental justice in Oregon.

Lastly, we ask the Committee to consider through the feasibility study the economics of maintaining barging (navigation) above The Dalles dam, including the public subsidies and public risk associated with navigation, versus the economic and job creation benefits of investing in the infrastructure and services that would lead to a permanently restored and protected Celilo Falls and environs, perhaps as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

We look forward to participating in all relevant discussions pertaining to the future management of the Columbia River.

Best wishes,

Sean Aaron Cruz

Sean Aaron Cruz
Executive Director, The Friends of Celilo Falls

cc: State Representative Ken Helm
Governor Kate Brown
Legislative Commission on Indian Services
The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
The Nez Perce Tribe
The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation
The Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission
The Oregon Environmental Justice Task Force
The Friends of Celilo Falls board of directors
Other interested parties

The Friends of Celilo Falls


Crude Oil Bomb Trains Threaten the Columbia Gorge

by Sean Aaron Cruz

Portland, Oregon–

Crude oil trains are passing within 100 feet of both banks of the Columbia River at Celilo. See video link below:

BNSF runs its bomb trains on the Washington side, Union Pacific runs its bomb trains on the Oregon side, rolling the dice through every community in the Columbia Gorge….

No place in the entire Columbia River Gorge is ready or equipped to deal with a crude oil incident, whether derailment, leakage, fire or explosion, and the train tracks run through every community, close by schools and hospitals, homes and businesses. The railroads refuse to warn emergency workers or residents when they are sending the bomb trains through, and it is up to the communities (and taxpayers) to pay for and provide training, personnel and emergency equipment to deal with an incident.

For more than 80 miles, the railroad tracks line both banks of the Columbia River and its vital salmon fishery.

The railroads and the crude oil export industry want to increase the number of oil trains they run through the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, in all kinds of weather and track conditions.

Who will stop these crude oil bomb trains before a catastrophe takes place?

It is up to you….

celilo scouting jun 26 012

Wishram, Washington on left  — Celilo Falls in between — Celilo Village, Oregon on right

Washington: BNSF RR                             Oregon: Union Pacific RR


celilo scouting jun 26 103

Wishram, Washington, BNSF rail yard looking south at Celilo Village, Oregon

See video:

Bomb Trains” The Crude Gamble of Oil By Rail

The Friends of Celilo Falls is forming:

Find us on Facebook:


The Friends of Celilo Falls supports the Columbia River Gorge Commission’s moratorium on coal and crude oil shipments


the most valuable fish

The Friends of Celilo Falls joined the Friends of the Columbia Gorge and other opponents of crude oil and coal shipments through the Gorge in testimony today before the Columbia River Gorge Commission. In addition to providing the statement below, we offered verbal comments noting that state and local governments can defeat the federal preemption on the regulation of interstate commerce as a matter of public safety.

We stated that The Friends of Celilo Falls categorically opposes any development that threatens the future recovery of Celilo Falls.

The Columbia River Gorge Commissioners voted to add language to their draft resolution and draft letters to Governors Kitzhaber and Inslee calling for a moratorium on coal and crude oil shipments until certain conditions are met.

The Friends of Celilo Falls endorses the proposed moratorium.


The Friends of Celilo Falls

July 7, 2014

To the Columbia River Gorge Commission:


The Friends of Celilo Falls board of directors supports the Columbia River Gorge Commission’s draft resolution and its draft letter to Governor Kitzhaber and Governor Inslee, with a sense of great urgency.

We are very much concerned about the threats that coal export proposals pose, and we will oppose these and every other future effort to expand the use of the Scenic Protection Area as an increasingly internationalized industrial corridor.

We urge Governor Kitzhaber and Governor Inslee to halt all coal export proposals until the 2014 – 2024 Columbia River Treaty Review is complete and the concerns outlined in the Columbia River Gorge Commission’s resolution are met.

We are also much concerned about the very real threats that the transport of crude oil by train through the Gorge poses to people, housing and infrastructure, and all living beings in the Gorge. We urge Governor Kitzhaber and Governor Inslee to ban the transport of crude oil through the Gorge.

We look forward to working with the Commission in its future efforts to protect the scenic, natural, cultural and spiritual resources of the Gorge and to develop jobs that serve the interest of the Columbia River Gorge as a place, rather than as a route.


Sean Aaron Cruz

Executive Director

 Cc: The Friends of Celilo Falls board of directors

 The Friends of Celilo Falls is registered as an Oregon nonprofit





The Day the Oregon State Senate Mourned the Flooding of Celilo Falls


On the 50th anniversary of the flooding of Celilo Falls, the Oregon Senate mourned the loss of Celilo Falls in Senate Concurrent Resolution 10 (SCR 10), and urged the federal government to keep its promises to replace the housing lost at Celilo Village due to the flooding in Senate Joint Memorial 7 (SJM 7), promises that had been unkept for 50 years.


2200 4 fishermen at celilo cgdc

PREVIEW: Estimated completion date: March 10, 2014 (the 57th anniversary of the flooding).


The Day the Oregon State Senate Mourned the Flooding of Celilo Falls

Is a production of The Friends of Celilo Falls.


The Friends of Celilo Falls is a new nonprofit registered in the state of Oregon.

The Friends of Celilo Falls does not speak for or represent the Columbia River Treaty Tribes or the Wyam people at Celilo Village. The Friends of Celilo Falls speaks only for its own membership, and for future generations of human beings.

Find us on Facebook:



YouTube channel:

The Friends of Celilo Falls website is in development, launching soon….

The Friends of Celilo Falls Founding Board of Directors:


Andrea Alexander

Aurolyn Stwyer

Cynthia Vogel

Dara Snyder

Kevin Duell

Ruby Shiraz

Sean Aaron Cruz

Shirley Harada

Treothe Bullock




Native Fishermen of a Not-So-Vanishing Race

By Sean Aaron Cruz

Portland, Oregon—

The 1919 storyboard about Celilo Falls states “Native fishermen of a vanishing race”, shocking now in its casual matter-of-factness, its frank unabashed recognition that a continental genocide was yet taking place across the face of America, well into the 20th century, long after the Indian Wars were supposedly over.

Someone has stitched together a series of short films that show Celilo Falls and Celilo Village in 1919, 1926, 1936, 1945 and as the falls were flooded in 1957, and put the film series up on Youtube, about 27 minutes total.

There is a storyboard in the 1919 film that describes these Celilo fishermen and villagers, whose tribes had fished here since time immemorial, as “vanishing,” and the hard truth is that the extermination of an entire race was still a goal of American public policy not so long ago.

the most valuable fish


The 1957 segment showing the inundation of Celilo Falls is shocking in its own right, but there is more to the story: as the flooding takes place the bulldozers are already at work at Celilo Village and there before you is the monstrosity of The Dalles – Celilo canal that had been blasted through in 1919 near the very heart of the falls, and with these acts the ethnic cleansing of the Columbia Gorge was very nearly complete.

Imagine being a person sitting in a movie theater, and a storyboard comes up that tells you that all of your people, your entire race, are going to “vanish,” right here in the United States of America.  And they mean it; that’s what they are teaching their children; that’s what they are teaching your own children in their boarding schools. It’s enough to make you toss your popcorn.

Where there were dozens of Native villages not so long ago, there was now only Celilo, and the bulldozers were knocking down the buildings, the USA hoping the People would go away from this place, leave us to our barging….

Celilo Falls was not flooded for hydropower, you see, but only to move barges past the historic fishery….

At the end of the series is a short 1950 film titled “Return to the River”, and you will marvel at the size of these salmon the Native fishermen are wrestling out of the Big River; they would pull these puppies out all day long, the supply without limit not so long ago, when the Indians were on the job, managing the fishery. There’s a lesson here….

Speaking of puppies, it is a fact that the Lewis and Clark expedition preferred to eat dogs over the salmon, chose to trade rather than fish….

An entry in their journal reads:

”Oct 22nd Tuesday 1805

At the lower part of those rapids

We arrived at 5 large lodges of Natives

Drying and preparing fish for market”

They had arrived at the “Wall Street of the West”….

Here’s the link to the film. There is no sound track. You’ll have to use your imagination. The video is as silent as the Falls are today.

Celilo Falls will be restored, and in the not-so-distant future. You will be part of this, as will your children’s children, seeing Celilo Falls restored and protected forever. It is a matter of prioritizing the fishery over barging, that’s the deal.

What remains is to organize, and that globally….

The Friends of Celilo Falls is forming.


Celilo Falls 1915-1957


Find us on Facebook:

Free Celilo Falls! Comment on the Columbia River Treaty Review

October 21, 2013

From The Friends of Celilo Falls

To the US Entity, Columbia River Treaty Review

Mr. Stephen R. Oliver, U.S Entity Coordinator, Bonneville Power Administration

Mr. David Ponganis, U.S Entity Coordinator, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


Submitted online at:

Re: Columbia River Treaty – Draft Regional Recommendation

Dear Mr. Oliver and Mr. Ponganis:

The Board of Directors of The Friends of Celilo Falls appreciates this opportunity to submit comments to the US Entity regarding the working draft of a regional recommendation concerning the future of the Columbia River Treaty.

The Friends of Celilo Falls is a new nonprofit dedicated to the restoration and protection of Celilo Falls and its ancient fishery under the permanent stewardship of the Columbia River Treaty tribes. The Friends of Celilo Falls does not represent or speak for any entity other than its own membership. We do not speak for or represent the Columbia River Treaty tribes or the people of Celilo Village.

We are aware that Celilo Falls is not submerged for hydropower, flood control or irrigation purposes, but only to facilitate barging through the Columbia Gorge. We believe that Celilo Falls is an essential component of the Columbia River ecosystem and we ask that you consider a restored Celilo Falls in your modeling.

We are also aware that maintaining barge shipping through the Columbia Gorge requires billions of dollars in public subsidies, and that the system as a whole is highly inefficient, with half the total barges and 80% of those moving upriver empty. The future high and low flows anticipated in your modeling would appear to make the inefficiencies of this system even more problematic and costly to the public than at the present.

We note that shippers use the locks free of charge (at public expense) while the public must pay day use fees at any of the several points of access in the Gorge.

We take issue with the contention that barging is “environmentally benign” as the vast reaches of slack water that barges require and which reduces fish survivability costs the public billions of dollars to mitigate. These costs should be factored into any accounting of the energy “efficiency” of barging vs other modes of transportation.

We oppose the prioritization of the Columbia River Gorge as an internationalized industrial corridor, and support the creation of a new Celilo – Wishram – Maryhill UNESCO World Heritage Site. We believe that tourism and other benefits of such an endeavor would create thousands of construction and permanent jobs benefitting most of all those who are and will be living and raising their families in the Columbia River Gorge itself.

We ask you to consider Oregon Governor Tom McCall’s statement on the 1967 Beach Bill, which protects Oregon’s public beaches forever, quoting Oregon Governor Oswald West: “…in the administration of this God-given trust, a broad protective policy should be declared and maintained. No local selfish interest should be permitted, through politics or otherwise, to destroy or even impair this great birthright of our people.”

Free Celilo Falls!


The Board of Directors of The Friends of Celilo Falls

Sean Aaron Cruz, Executive Director

Kevin Duell, Board President

Shirley Harada, Board Treasurer

Dara Snyder, Board Secretary

Cynthia Vogel, Board Member

Hannah Kullberg, Board Member

Ruby Shirazi, Board Member

Treothe Bullock, Board Member


The Friends of Celilo Falls does not represent or speak for any entity other than its own membership. We do not speak for or represent the Columbia River Treaty tribes or the people of Celilo Village.

The Friends of Celilo Falls

10809 NE Fremont St. Portland, Oregon 97220

The Dalles Chronicle reports: Group hopes to restore Celilo Falls

Group Hopes To Restore Celilo Falls

By Neita Cecil

The Dalles Chronicle

As of Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Dalles — A new non-profit group has lofty goals: to permanently lower the Columbia River, restoring Celilo Falls and its native fishery; and reconnecting Celilo Village to the river by rerouting the nearby rail lines and freeway to Washington.

Sean Cruz is the spokesman for Friends of Celilo Falls, and he’s pitched his vision to the Columbia River Gorge Commission.

Cruz, of Portland, was once a legislative staffer in Salem, and was on the Senate floor when a resolution was passed in 2007, mourning the flooding of Celilo Falls in 1956 as a consequence of the construction of The Dalles Dam.

“I was there when we heard the tribes tell the story of the falls and how devastating this was to the people,” he said. “The deep trauma to the native people that flooding the falls caused, that continues to this day.”

“Prior to 1850, both banks of the Columbia River were lined with Indian villages, the entire length of the river. But today, there’s only one Indian village left, only one. And that’s how strong the connection to Celilo Falls is for the native people,” he said.

Now the village is cut off from the river by two rail lines and Interstate 84.

Cruz said commenters on the Senate floor that day said, “To flood Celilo Falls today, if the falls had not already been flooded, it would’ve been unthinkable. That was the word that was used. Unthinkable. If the falls were there today, who would think about flooding them? Just to get barges past them. Are you joking?”

Barging interests countered that the permanent lowering of the river was unthinkable. (See related story A1)

Cruz said, “A lot of people believe that Celilo Falls are gone forever, lost forever, or the only way the falls can come back is to take down the dam at The Dalles, but that’s not true.”

While barging as a mode of transportation is more economical than rail or truck, Cruz argued that the public infrastructure required for barging nullifies that efficiency.

“Barging on the Columbia has never been an economically feasible way of moving freight,” he said. “It has always required massive public subsidies. Massive. As a matter of fact, we’re into the billions of dollars of subsidies now.”

Just a few years ago, three lock gates on regional river systems were replaced at a cost of $50 million, he said. “About the only business that goes through those lock gates is the average of three barge tows a day,” Cruz said. “So it’s a direct benefit to a very small group of shippers.”

Meanwhile, the slack water needed for barging negatively impacts fish, he said, and the public will pay $1.675 billion for salmon recovery efforts over the next decade.

“There’s no other place in the world like it, like Celilo Falls, so why is it 40 feet underwater?” he said.

His group envisions a walking trail the length of the Columbia River; excursion boats that trawl multiple stops from Portland on upriver; and an electric passenger excursion train that takes passengers from new motels on the plateau beyond Maryhill to a viewing point of the falls at Wishram, then on into The Dalles.

A section of Interstate 84 and the rail lines that now go past Celilo Village, east of The Dalles, would be rerouted into Washington at The Dalles, and then come back into Oregon about 15 miles east — past Biggs and Maryhill, Cruz envisions.

His organization plans to create computerized 3D models of their vision. He said millions of people worldwide would share his interest in revealing Celilo Falls. It is just a matter of educating them and harnessing their voice.

He said information is already available on the Internet about Celilo Falls, such as a YouTube video by the Army Corps of Engineers showing Celilo Falls in its glory, before it was inundated over the course of six hours when the dam became operational.

Celilo Falls 1956:

“We want to educate people that this has to be protected, and it has to be protected forever,” he said.

He likened the effort to the decision made in the 1960s by Oregon’s then governor to make Oregon’s beaches publicly accessible. Restoring Celilo Falls is “more complicated” he said, “but again, we’re looking at a resource like Oregon beaches that are just as valuable in terms of geology. Lay on top of that cultural and archaeological values.”

As for funding relocation of the highway and rail lines, Cruz said “there’s prioritized federal funding for multimodal bridges and highways in rural areas.”

The restored falls would become a working fishery once again, and Cruz wants them to come under “the permanent stewardship of the Columbia River treaty tribes.”

But, unlike before, no non-tribal members would be allowed on the fishing grounds.

Rather, they would be able to see the falls from Wishram, which is directly across the river from the submerged falls, or from the still-intact railroad bridge just 400 yards or so upriver from the falls, or perhaps from a new viewing area created on Fifteenmile Road.

He said the public would be kept away from the falls because they’re so dangerous. When the falls were exposed, “the water comes past these fishers like it’s blasted out of a cannon. That’s how dangerous it is. Every year people drowned. All the more reason why controlling public access is vital,” he said.

A lowered river would expose archaeological sites, which would require fencing off and monitoring. Cruz said that work would create significant ongoing employment opportunities.

“That’s a vast archaeological area out there, both sides of the river, everything east of The Dalles Dam, out past Maryhill. The people lived there for thousands of years. They didn’t live in just one place. There’s burial sites, sacred sites.”


Find us on Facebook: The Friends of Celilo Falls



The Friends of Celilo Falls does not speak for or represent any of the Columbia River Treaty tribes or the Wyam people at Celilo Village. We speak only for our own membership and for visionary people around the world who have yet to hear what is at stake in the Columbia River Gorge.