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Paddling for politics and passion

Group gets close to dam for a point


Five members of the Sea2Source expedition head back to Seaton’s Grove after a close encounter with the Grand Coulee Dam Saturday. The group got close enough to the dam to get a stern warning from Grand Coulee police. — Scott Hunter photo

Five people in two canoes got as close as they dared to Grand Coulee Dam Saturday on a “Sea to Source” expedition in craft carved from trees by school kids and others.

Their purpose is to call attention to what they consider to be deficits in the soon-to-expire Columbia River Treaty between the United States and Canada. Under that 1964 treaty, which addresses power and flood control issues, three dams in Canada and Libby Dam in the United States were built.

Tribes and conservationists now want a third purpose added to the treaty: restoring the Columbia River to ecological health including bringing salmon home to waters blocked by dams.

“The Grand Coulee Dam was once considered to be the greatest engineering project the world had ever seen,” noted Adam Wicks-Arshack. “Now lets get started with the greatest eco-engineering project—a fish ladder at the Grand Coulee Dam.”

Wicks-Arshack was among the five in the canoes on the river Saturday about 9:30 a.m., dwarfed as they approached the massive face of Grand Coulee Dam before returning to Seaton’s Grove boat launch to portage around the dam.

The crew consists of five river guides who oversee a river-based environmental education program called Voyages of Rediscovery.

“The idea behind the canoes and the river expedition is to bring the salmon back to the upper reaches of the Columbia River,” Wicks-Arshack said.“We carved these canoes with thousands of students who’ve had the salmon removed from their culture by Grand Coulee Dam.”

He said the five canoes in the entourage represented the five salmon species that no longer travel up the river.

The group will return the canoes to the students along the way that built them, including those at Inchelium and Wellpinit and at Medicine Wheel Academy of the Community School in Spokane.

“The students worked every day on these canoes and it is an honor to paddle these salmon canoes which were created with so much energy from so many young people,” said the group’s John Zinser, boat builder and river guide.

People can follow the Sea2Source Expedition’s progress at

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Reader Comments

Angela Iukes writes:

I think this is so awesome. My prayers are with them :)

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