Event calls for removal of the Lower Snake River dams

Nez Perce tribe, environmental activists hold fourth annual Free the Snake Flotilla protest



Nez Perce Tribal members paddle down the river Saturday afternoon at the “Free the Snake Flotilla.”

IAN SMAY, Evergreen reporter

Environmental activists hope to raise support for the removal of dams on the Lower Snake River at the fourth annual Free the Snake Flotilla that will take place this Friday and Saturday at Chief Timothy Park in Clarkston.

The two-day event brings together environmental activists and members of the public to raise awareness of decreasing wild salmon population and threats of extinction to various salmon species, said Jacob Schmidt, event organizer and outreach coordinator with Save Our Wild Salmon, one of the group’s in charge of the event.

“The eventual goal is to have the Lower Snake River dams removed,” Schmidt said. “That’s going to take a lot of political will in that direction.”

Schmidt also said they expect anywhere between 600 to 1,000 people to attend this year’s flotilla. The event website lists last year’s attendance as “over 400 people.”

This year, the organizers hope to attract more people by hosting renowned environmental activists such as Winona LaDuke and musician Nahko among others, according to a press release.

The festivities begin on Friday at 4 p.m. with a welcoming ceremony, musical performance and guest speakers, according to the event’s website. Schmidt said attendees are asked to arrive an hour or two early on Saturday for the 10 a.m. boat launch.

“It’s a pretty diverse group age-wise,” he said. “There’s a solid group of the folks that are really active in the salmon conservation world. Then there’s also new faces every year.”

The event will not provide any boats or kayaks for people to paddle, but Schmidt said attendees usually bring large boats with extra seats for those who cannot afford or transport their own equipment.

Members of local Native American tribes will paddle down from the Clearwater River to meet people at the event, Schmidt said. The in-water portion of the weekend will end at 2 p.m., according to the website.

After dispersing for a lunch break, the event will pick back up at 4 p.m. to hear LaDuke speak, followed by a performance by Nahko at 5 p.m, according to the website.

Schmidt said anyone is invited to camp over the weekend at the park, and the website states there are more than 60 campsites available on a first come first serve basis. Those camping will be charged $10 per tent and $20 per RV in order to cover park reservation costs.

Various groups, including the Sierra Club, Patagonia, Save Our Wild Salmon and Friends of the Clearwater are sponsoring the event, according to the website.

Two counter protests are planned, one in the Tri-Cities and one in downtown Lewiston, Idaho, Schmidt said. This is not the first year there have been counter-demonstrations, but he said they have always remained civil.

“I’m fairly certain [the counter protests] will be separate,” Schmidt said. “It’s all been pretty civil in the past.”