Landmark Decision Protecting Columbia River Salmon Runs - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Landmark Decision Protecting Columbia River Salmon Runs

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KENNEWICK, Wash.- A landmark decision on management of salmon in the Columbia River.

An ongoing court battle appears done with tonight after an agreement between the federal government and local native American tribes.

This agreement is being hailed as unprecedented by both sides involved.

Salmon runs have been at historic lows in recent years.  They say this agreement could be the solution.

It's in the waters of the Columbia River where hundreds of thousands of salmon come to spawn each year, but since the installation of nine hydroelectric dams, those runs have hit historic lows.

"These are unprecedented agreements and they forge a new partnership between four tribes and three federal agencies to implement common goals and actions for fish restoration," said Lori Bodi with the Bonneville Power Administration.

Native American tribes and the federal government have ended a nearly decade long court battle aimed at restoring those runs.  

Under the new agreement, the federal government will secure nearly a $1 billion, over the next ten years for fish restoration projects, including new hatcheries and additional protection for salmon often killed passing through dams.

Under the agreement, those dams cannot be breached.    

"This is not a blank check for a future plan, these are funding amounts that go to specific tasks on the ground developed, scoped and ready to implement," said John Ogan with the Warm Springs Tribe in Oregon. 

The agreement is also exciting local fisherman.  Falling fish runs have reached all the way to the fishing industry. 

Fisherman and shopowner Lonnie Cargill almost gave up on salmon fishing after runs fell so low it was almost pointless.

"You get the numbers up, there's more fishermen, there's more interest, there more people doing it," Cargill said.

BPA, the manager of the water flow on the Columbia, will front much of this funding which is expected to go to the tribes involved in this agreement, the Umatilla, Yakama, Colville and Warm Springs all took part in those negotiations.