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Anglers Intend to Ensure Salmon Get Full Protection

by Rocky Barker
The Idaho Statesman, July 21, 2000

Feds delay dam decision, opt for alternative plan

With the decision on dam breaching delayed, Idaho anglers are shifting their effort to ensuring endangered salmon and steelhead get the full protection of the law.

Federal officials said Wednesday they will delay a decision on breaching four dams on the Snake River in Washington until 2008. In the meantime, they plan to keep the wild ocean-going fish from going extinct by cleaning up waterways, restoring spawning habitat and improving river flows and captive breeding.

Representatives of Idaho Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited, an anglers' group, met with Gov. Dirk Kempthorne this week to offer their help in pressing an aggressive alternative to breaching. The group, among the strongest advocates of breaching the four dams to save Idaho's endangered fish, wants to ensure the alternative plan is more than talk.

"If we aren't going to take down the dams, they had better meet the letter of the law," said Thayne Barrie, president of the steelhead anglers' group.

Salmon are a natural symbol of the Pacific Northwest, bring dollars to fishing-related businesses and carry spiritual values for American Indians and others. The dams allow shipping between Lewiston and the Pacific and provide enough electricity to power Seattle.

The alternatives to breaching will force farmers, loggers and developers to alter land practices that threaten salmon rivers. It also could require additional water from Idaho reservoirs such as Lucky Peak and increase the cost of electricity across the region.

Kempthorne, reaching out to fish advocates for the first time since his election, attended the Idaho salmon and steelhead anglers annual banquet Thursday at the DoubleTree Hotel Riverside.

He didn't speak to the crowd, but he talked to individual anglers as they vied for prizes and bid in auctions.

"We're looking forward to working with you, Governor," said Mitch Sanchotena, ISSU executive director.

Barrie worries that salmon will go extinct before the region takes the necessary action.

Federal and private studies show the risk of Snake River salmon going extinct in the next 20 years is high.

But the large returns of hatchery fish this year demonstrate what happens when juvenile salmon have high water flows in the spring to aid migration, Barrie said.

Many businesses that benefit from anglers financially support Idaho Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited.

"Many of our customers are here," said Dave Nielsen of Quality Canvas in Garden City, which makes boat covers. "If we didn't have the fishermen, we wouldn't be in business."

Restoring Idaho's salmon runs to 1960s levels could mean $72 million in new revenues and 2,100 full-time jobs, according to an economic study commissioned by the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

But its not money that motivates Mark Arstein, an investment adviser in Boise.

"Part of Idaho's heritage is to catch these big wild salmon," Arstein said. "I'd love to have the opportunity for my kids to catch these wonderful fish."

Rocky Barker
Anglers Intend to Ensure Salmon Get Full Protection
The Idaho Statesman, July 21, 2000

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