Testimony of Derrek Batson
9/14/00 - Delivered before the Committee on Environment and Public
Chairman Crapo, and senators of the committee, my name is Derrek Batson. I am an officer of Idaho Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited -- or ISSU -- and reside in Nampa, Idaho.
First, let me say that anytime I get east of Senator Crapo's hometown of Idaho Falls my knees begin to shake and I feel a little bit over whelmed. However it is such a great honor to be part of this important process and I have convinced myself I will be just fine.
ISSU was formed in 1984 by a diverse group of businessmen, guides, conservationists, sport fishermen and concerned citizens from throughout the Columbia River region to restore, protect, and preserve the region's steelhead and salmon resources. So as you can imagine ISSU is no stranger to this issue or the process.
We know why Senator Crapo and other Northwestern senators care about salmon restoration -- because salmon are in their back yard. But why should the rest of you or your constituents care? One reason is because protecting and restoring what were once the worlds largest runs of salmon and steelhead -- and this icon of the northwest -- it's the only thing to do. But another reason, and one which we believe is as important to your constituents is that most of the rest of the nation view our area as their national playground. Our wilderness areas, white water rivers, and massive expanses of federal lands are intriguing to them and they come to our state by the thousands to recreate in these areas. In Idaho today tourism is the number two industry. It is surpassed only by agriculture. A limited steelhead fishery on hatchery-reared steelhead generates over ninety-two million dollars annually for our state. We have not had a general salmon season since 1978 -- only three years after completion of the Lower Snake River Dams -- but it is estimated that it would equal or exceed the steelhead fishing economy. So, as you can see we will wear the title of national play ground proudly and restoring salmon needs to be a key part of it. When your constituents come to Idaho they deserve to be able to enjoy this northwest icon.
Briefly allow me to highlight where the Federal BiOp fails the salmon.
For the Federal Caucus to separate the mainstem Columbia and Snake Rivers -- with their hydropower obstructions -- from habitat is a misnomer Habitat is habitat -- whether it is in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness or the dam- choked reservoirs in the Mainstem Columbia and Snake Rivers. For the BiOp to focus on the fresh water habitat in Snake River tributaries while ignoring the federal dams and reservoirs is a prescription for failure. Idaho's wilderness salmon bedrooms are as pristine today as they were a hundred years ago, yet no salmon return. Wild salmon in the Middle Fork Salmon River, South Fork Salmon River and most- other Idaho tributaries pass no irrigation diversions, yet NMFS wants to focus on screening irrigation diversions. Granted it's probably politically non-controversial, but it does nothing to recover wild salmon in these wilderness areas. The BiOp caps -- and in some cases reduces fishing -- when fishing today is a mere fraction of what it was before the dams were built in the lower Snake River. This is the fallacy of the BiOp. It attacks land users and fishermen. Loggers, miners. ranchers, farmers and fishermen are all victims of the federal dams, yet the BiOp continues to punish these victims. Land-use industries sacrificed much to set aside the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness to protect salmon and steelhead. Combined these two wilderness areas comprise the single largest contiguous wilderness in the lower forty-eight states. Fishermen have not kept wild Snake River spring chinook salmon in the Columbia or Snake River since 1978 -- or wild summer chinook since the late 1960s. Yet every wild stock is listed by the ESA. To do more of the same while ignoring the number one salmon killer -- the federal dams in the Lower Snake River -- quite frankly this is inconceivable.
Allow me to give you an example of the half-heartedness of the BiOp. Specific Performance Standards; Draft BiOp 9-7 to 9-15 -----Agencies are required to meet three overall types of performance standards: programmatic (e.g., did the agencies implement the required measures, did they complete the required analysis, and did they acquire funding necessary to implement and complete these measures and analysis) biological; (i.e.,. population growth rates), and finally physical; (e.g.,. spawner counts, riparian health, water quality). There are only consequences for failure to meet the biological standard.
Here is our take of this -- First NMFS has yet to define the physical and programmatic standards -- this is a major omission at the very heart of the BiOp. Second, the current biological performance standard is based on assumptions and data that do not adequately represent population growth rates for Snake River salmon and it does not include other biological factors (for instance, population distribution necessary for recovery). Third, specific consequences for failing to meet any of the three types of standards should be incorporated into the BiOp.
It is important to emphasize here: performance standards are the means by which NMFS proposes to make this plan work to restore salmon. Yet in the draft document the performance standards are incomplete or missing all three types of standards and there are no consequences for failing to achieve two of the three types of standards.
The Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition has done an outline of the draft recovery plan. I have included it in the material package you now have. I hope you will take time to review it in its entirety.
In closing let me assure you that ISSU has no agenda to just breach dams. Our agenda is to restore a viable anadromous resource to the Columbia Region even if it means breaching the lower Snake River dams. We will accept any plan that will assure recovery of salmon to harvestable, sustainable levels. To date we have not seen one that can do that without breaching the lower Snake River dams, nor do we believe we ever will.
Thank you for allowing me this time before you, and I will try to answer your questions.
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