First Advisor

William L. Lang

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Restoration ecology -- Oregon -- Umatilla River Watershed, Pacific salmon -- Oregon -- Umatilla River Watershed -- History, Fishes -- Conservation -- Oregon -- Umatilla River Watershed -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (iii, 169 pages)


Until the 1990s, salmon had been extinct from the Umatilla River for over 70 years. The struggle to bring salmon back to this river is a compelling story that exemplifies some of the new relationships in Columbia River Basin salmon management.

The Umatilla River and the disappearance of its salmon was a local issue. Irrigation interests had used the river so thoroughly it ceased to flow during the late summer and fall months-precisely when salmon needed it for migration. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation saw decided that they would change that: they would figure out a way to put both salmon and water back into the river.

This thesis examines this process. First, it contextualizes the Umatilla River within the Columbia River Basin and Columbia Basin salmon management, and shows how a local salmon issue became a regional salmon issue. It then discusses the triangle of relationships that Indians, salmon, and hatcheries have come to form. Chapter III discusses the formation of the unique Umatilla Fish Restoration Program, which reintroduced fish into the river, and was paid for by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), as per the Northwest Power Act. Key elements within BPA's Fish and Wildlife Division resisted complying with the directives of the Northwest Power Planning Council to pay for the Program, setting the Program back years. I argue that this comes from two clashing ways of seeing the River: "cost-benefit analysis" versus "least cost."

Chapter IV looks at the new partnerships formed in the Umatilla River Basin by the Tribes and irrigation districts in order to encourage the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to construct a water delivery system that would satisfy irrigators while allowing most of the Umatilla to flow freely.

The last Chapter suggests that these new and somewhat ironic partnerships between federal and state governments, private irrigators and landowners, nongovernmental organizations, and Indian tribes are key to restoring ecosystems in the Columbia River Basin. It further argues that without tribal nations playing an active role and exerting their treaty rights, restoring rivers like the Umatilla is impossible.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).


If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have it removed from the Open Access Collection, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL

Persistent Identifier