Final Federal Plan To Save Salmon
By JEFF BARNARD
.c The Associated Press
The final plan, which was released Thursday, calls for federally owned
hydroelectric dams to be operated to minimize harm to salmon during
migrations to the ocean and spawning beds, as well as habitat improvements,
hatchery operations and fishing policy changes.
Removing four hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River in eastern
Washington has been a lightning-rod issue in Pacific Northwest and national
President-elect Bush said during his campaign that the dams should not be
breached. Vice President Al Gore had said the issue needed more scientific
Removing the dams, which were built in the 1970s, would cut federal
hydroelectric production in the Northwest by 4 percent and wipe out barge
service between the Columbia and Lewiston, Idaho. It also would lower
reservoirs used for irrigation.
American Indian tribes and environmentalists want to remove the dams to
return the river to a more natural condition. The federal plan calls for
studies to evaluate the species' recovery before removal is reconsidered.
``Breaching those dams remains an option if the recovery efforts don't meet
strict performance standards included in the strategy,'' Donna Darm, acting
Northwest regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service,
said from Portland. ``We believe this plan has the best chance of recovering
A dozen different runs of salmon in the Columbia Basin are listed as
threatened or endangered species. Numbers of steelhead and upper Columbia
spring chinook have dramatically diminished in recent years.
Brig. Gen. Carl Strock, division engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, warned that if Congress fails to fully fund the plan, breaching
the four lower Snake River dams in eastern Washington ``may turn out to be
the only thing we can do.'' The earliest a move could be made to breach dams
would be five to seven years.
The plans are estimated to cost up to $190 million a year on top of the $252
million a year the Bonneville Power Administration already uses on salmon
recovery. It was unclear how much of the increase would come from Congress
and home much from BPA.
Four Indian tribes that have treaty rights to fish for salmon may sue the
federal government to force more definitive action to save salmon, said
Charles Hudson, spokesman for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish
While happy the plans represented a quicker path to deciding if dam removal
is necessary, environmentalists questioned the scientific basis for not
immediately embracing breaching, and said they were doubtful that
President-elect Bush and Congress would follow through with funding.
On the Net:
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