Faces from the Flotilla: Northwesterners seek change on the lower Snake River

Participants at the third annual Free the Snake Flotilla on Saturday, Sept. 9, traveled from across the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Numbering in the hundreds, they brought a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Here are views that 16 of them shared with us about why they participated.

"If these dams are defunct they should go. We should be cleaning up our garbage."

-Becky Strickler, Portland, Ore.

“We built the dams. We know how to build. Let’s use our collective knowledge to build. Let’s build beaches. Let’s build current. Let’s build shade. Let’s build fish runs... Let’s build this. Let’s build a way together that supports fish, native ways of life and our communities. Most importantly, let us build on our knowledge, our knowledge of mistakes. Undam it.”

-Devon Barker-Hicks, Riggins, Idaho (green t-shirt)

"I've got a lot of friends who are commercial fishermen in Alaska. The dams are costing us a lot of fish, a lot of money, and not giving us much back. And this flotilla is a fun way to spend a weekend."

-Gary Carlson, Seattle, Wash.

"We're gathering with all sorts of people to expose one of the worst-kept secrets in the entire Northwest. And that's that these dams are done. They cost too much. They destroy our salmon, they destroy our fishing cultures. We don't need their energy. We made a mistake when we put them in, and it's time to right that wrong."

-Joseph Bogaard, Seattle, Wash

"There hasn't been this type of singing or Indian activities here in 100 years or more. It's good to open the space for all people. It makes good relations."

-Lucinda Simpson, Lapwai, Idaho

"It's a beautiful thing to see hundreds of people from throughout the Pacific Northwest region, on one single day, to say loudly: we need the political leadership to breach the dams and do right by the people and the fish."

-Brett Haverstick, Moscow, Idaho (left)

"I believe in wild places and healthy rivers. The more voices toward any issue the better. It's just showing how many people have a heart in this issue. People have come from all over for this, and it shows."

-Cindy Magnuson, Moscow, Idaho

"I'm here because I'm 90 percent sure I'm in total agreement with what's going on and the logic of removing the dams. I have not been totally convinced of this; I'm always looking for a balance. But it looks to me like we could replace the power with wind and solar. Another thing that brought me here is: this is a way of connecting people from the broader region. That's really the issue and the way to get things done."

-Doug Elledge, Chewelah, Wash.

"My main reason for being here is bringing nature back to what it was. I used to live on Latah Creek, and they used to be up there. But no longer."

-Jake Sorenson, Spokane, Wash. (left)

"I live near Kettle Falls, which used to be the second largest salmon fishery on the Columbia River. It was for some people the center of the world. Now it's a carp pond. I owe it to my home to question dam culture everywhere."

-Kyle Chamberlain, Kettle Falls, Wash.

"I want to hear salmon moving the rocks again in the lower Snake River. The people here--we're the collective consciousness for the fish."

-Rich Howard, Boise, Idaho

"We are most interested in free-flowing rivers. We believe this section of the Snake should be free-flowing. It's the magic of moving water. Being able to experience that--that's magic."

-Brad Jaeckel, Moscow, Idaho (right)

"I'm here for the holistic view of the ecosystem,and rivers are part of that, as are the salmon. We are in a crisis right now. I've also traveled. You go to Europe and you don't even put your toes in the water. They've pushed too far. We're lucky here; we don't have to go that far, but we have to act."

-Diane Baumgart, Moscow, Idaho

"I grew up here in the `50s when you could go out and catch these wild B-run steelhead. This year they're estimating 700--700! I am a serious student of the lower Snake River dams. If you look at it like a three legged stool with one leg being hydropower, one being transportation and the last being fish, all three legs are missing. The stool fell over a long time ago. Transportation on these reservoirs is in serious, steady decline. The Bonneville Power Administration can't afford to rehab turbines at the dams. And the fish are collapsing. Something's got to change."

-Linwood Laughy, Kooskia, Idaho

"I think water is one of the natural treasures we have tended to undervalue in this country in the last 50 years. We need to find our place in relation to water. If we care for it, it will care for us. We need to find our place in nature."

-Tom Soeldner, Valleyford, Wash.

2017 Flotilla-42.jpg