Columbia River BasinExpedition


Purpose of the Columbia Basin Expedition, 2011

“On the Beach – Chinook,” by Edward S. Curtis. Credit: Northwestern University Library, Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian: the Photographic Images, 2001.

THREATS to the COLUMBIA RIVER BASIN: The Columbia, with eight times the runoff of the Colorado River Basin, is North America’s 4th largest river by volume. The area draining into this 1,243-mile-long river spans a Canadian province, 7 U.S. states and 11 tribal nations. Over 11 million people rely on its water for livelihood and recreation. Typical of basins with large populations, issues facing the Columbia River Basin include:

Climate change, particularly receding glaciers and diminishing annual snow pack

Infrastructure, including 400 dams, impacting habitat, fish migration and traditional river usage

Waste runoff from industry, a nuclear site, mines

Agricultural fertilizers and organic effluents, threatening water quality and aquatic habitat

Over-extraction of resources, including timber, water and fish

Renegotiation of the Basin Treaty in 2014 may strain relations between US, Canada and Tribal Nations, yet the new treaty could become a positive model for responsible joint management of a shared resource. Dam removal is one very positive example of the many public and private efforts in this watershed fostering sustainable resource management.

EXPEDITION METHODOLOGY: The goal of this third NWNL Columbia River Expedition is to produce still and video documentation of critical trans-boundary and infrastructure issues and to follow up with stakeholders previously interviewed. Materials will be disseminated via various media; shared with other watershed stewards; and used as educational tools. Prior NWNL Columbia River Basin documentation includes:

2007: “Source-to-Sea Expedition” by 3 photographers, a videographer and a natural resource specialist

2008: “Columbia Wetlands – Canada Expedition” in conjunction with NWNL Exhibit/Lecture

Ongoing: Research by project director, project coordinator, and NWNL research assistants

Outputs from all three expeditions will be disseminated via print and online media, exhibits, lectures, and educational tools, and combined with expedition results from other NWNL watersheds as a reference for global solutions.

EXPEDITION FOCUS: This expedition is based on three major themes it has followed since 2007:

Effects of removal of hydro-dams in the Basin on eco-systems, salmon and other species

Indian Nations’ views of the Columbia River System as a source of sustenance and spiritual values

Canada’s plans for the 2014 renegotiation of Columbia Basin Treaty

Free-flowing rivers, trans-boundary issues, indigenous conservation and preservation of salmon will be captured via still photography, video and interviews. NWNL will attend Peninsula College’s Elwha River Science Symposium and document the Elwah Dam removal, Canada’s approach to treaty negotiations and ceremonies between the Chinook Nation andLewis & Clark descendents, and possible LNG terminals in the estuary.

Explorers Club

Global Info

EXPEDITION ENDORSEMENTS: NWNL thanks those who have endorsed its Columbia River expeditions and its funders. NWNL thanks The Explorers Club, The International League of Conservation Photographers, and the NWNL fiscal sponsor Wings World Quest for supporting this project from its inception in 2007.