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Bill Authorizes Study of Dam Removal

by Jason Kauffman
Idaho Mountain Express, August 5, 2009

Legislation comes as Sawtooth Valley sees 2nd year of positive returns

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last Friday aims to recover endangered runs of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin.

The legislation, called the Salmon Solutions and Planning Act of 2009, was introduced by Reps. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and Tom Petri, R-Wis. The bill, supported by Boise-based Idaho Rivers United, has 23 cosponsors.

"This bill's introduction comes at a critical time in the campaign to recover endangered stocks of Snake and Columbia river salmon and steelhead," said Bill Sedivy, executive director of Idaho Rivers United. "Their decline is crippling the Northwest fishing industry and harming regional communities and ecosystems. It's crucial that the Obama administration convene a solutions table that brings together stakeholders to solve this regional catastrophe."

The bill, Sedivy said, would work toward Snake River salmon and steelhead recovery by accomplishing four primary objectives:

Sedivy said the four peer-reviewed studies are an important facet of the legislation. They include analyses on lower Snake River corridor transportation upgrades, energy options, riverfront revitalization and irrigation water supply upgrades that would all be needed if the four dams on the river in eastern Washington are removed, a news release from IRU states.

Adult salmon and steelhead bound for the rivers of central Idaho to spawn, including stocks that end up in the Sawtooth Valley near Stanley, must cross those four lower Snake River dams before entering the state.

The legislation introduced into the House comes at an interesting time in Idaho's salmon recovery efforts. For the second year in a row, positive returns of the state's most imperiled species of anadromous fish -- Redfish Lake sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka) -- are pouring back into the Sawtooth Valley.

So far this summer, 69 of the red fish have been counted at fish traps near Stanley. Last summer, a total of 636 sockeye returned to the valley. Despite the positive nature of these returns, fisheries officials say the population is far from recovered.

Historically, up to 30,000 sockeye spawned in the Sawtooth Valley's Alturas, Pettit, Yellowbelly, Redfish and Stanley lakes.

Related Sites:
Salmon Solutions and Planning Act of 2009.

Jason Kauffman
Bill Authorizes Study of Dam Removal
Idaho Mountain Express, August 5, 2009

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