Historically, the Northeast Washington Salmon Recovery Region was comprised of free-flowing rivers supporting migrating salmon, steelhead, bull trout, and west slope cutthroat trout that the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Spokane Tribe of Indians, Kalispel Tribe of Indians, as well as many other upper river tribes relied on for subsistence, ceremonial, religious, and other cultural uses.
Construction of Grand Coulee Dam in 1941 and Chief Joseph Dam in 1955 on the Columbia River blocked migrating fish from traditional tribal fishing sites in the Columbia, Spokane, and Pend Oreille watersheds. About 37 percent of all migrating fish losses in the Columbia River basin occurred in the areas blocked by these two dams. But they are just two of many dams that create problems for Pend Oreille River salmon.
There is recognition that conditions need to be better for resident fish. For example, Box Canyon Dam is set to have upstream fish passage for bull trout operational by 2016, and work is occurring to find a way to provide fish passage at Albeni Falls Dam which is in Idaho near the state line.