Salmon Coalition Asks Obama for Helpby Erik Siemers
Sustainable Business Oregon, August 9, 2011
A collection of 1,000 businesses tied to the salmon industry sent a letter to President Barack Obama Tuesday urging him to take the lead in devising a salmon preservation plan for the Columbia River basin.
The group -- organized under the banner of nonprofit Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition -- cast the issue as one of economic importance.
"The futures of our companies and employees depend on recovering wild salmon, protecting our foods and farms, and building a clean energy economy," read the letter signed by representatives from each business. "As businesspeople, we see effective recovery as a catalyst for job creation and economic growth in many other sectors as well."
The letter to Obama comes a week after U.S. District Court Judge James Redden for the third time rejected the federal government's plan for operating the Columbia River's hydroelectric power system without harming the river's salmon population.
While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service had issued an opinion that continued hydropower operations through 2018 wasn't likely to harm any endangered salmon, Redden's ruling -- handed down in Portland -- said the federal plan "failed ... to identify specific mitigation plans to be implemented beyond 2013."
The coalition now wants the president to step in.
"We think it's time for President Obama to take action, show some leadership," said Zeke Grader, president of the San Francisco-based Pacific Federation of Fishermen's Associations.
More specifically, Grader said the the group wants the president to convene stakeholders from all sides of the debate "to see if we can't get this issue resolved for the long-term."
Grader said solutions exist. Restoration efforts of a smaller scale have already taken place along the San Joaquin river in Central California and in the Klamath River basin in Oregon, where some hydroelectric dams are being removed.
"For the Columbia River, we think everything should be on the table," he said.
The salmon and steelhead population is an unquestioned economic asset to the nation, the coalition said.
Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Portland-based Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, said her industry generates $3 billion annually. The salmon and steelhead fisheries alone are worth hundreds of millions, she said, that trickle down to ancillary parts of the economy, from hotels and restaurants to insurance agents and bankers.
"It doesn't matter how many hatchery fish we pump out, if we can't create recovery for the wild fish it will continue to suppress jobs in the northwest," she said.
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