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Idaho Attorney General Asks
to Join Fish vs. Dams Lawsuit

by Associated Press
Lewiston Tribune, March 5, 2004

Lawsuit states federal fisheries service should include hatchery fish
when taking counts in Columbia asnd upper Wilmette

BOISE -- The state attorney general is asking a federal judge for permission to join a lawsuit filed last January over the effect of upper Snake River reservoirs on migrating salmon and steelhead.

In his petition to U.S. District Judge James Redden in Portland, Lawrence Wasden said Thursday the state wanted to protect Idaho's sovereignty and control of its water.

Five environmental and fisheries groups have asked Redden to require federal fish managers to consider the impact of about a dozen federal dams above Hells Canyon and some below on the fish runs.

The groups criticize an earlier plan from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries division that discounted the impact of the upper Snake River dams.

They argued the dams have inhibited the river's natural flow to both flush fish to sea and help them return to spawn. To offset that impact, the state had been flushing 427,000 acre feet of water down the river -- until drought conditions the past three years have made it impossible to meet that flow target.

Idaho water users have maintained for years that flow augmentation does not have any significant effect on the fish runs, and reduces water available for irrigation and other uses. Wasden said he wants to make that case in court.

"We will continue to support scientifically sound solutions, but we will fight any efforts to override state water law and impose unwise and ultimately futile flow augmentation on Idaho water users," he said.

Environmental groups have guaranteed state officials they will not press for more in 2004 than the 427,000 acre-feet the state has provided previously from water users willing to rent their annual allocations for that purpose.

Associated Press
Idaho Attorney General Asks to Join Fish vs. Dams Lawsuit
Lewiston Tribune, March 5, 2004

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