Federal Draft Plan to Protect Salmon
by Michelle Cole
The federal government Tuesday notified a Portland judge that it would need another week to 10 days before releasing a court-ordered plan to protect threatened salmon from harm caused by hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Basin.
"We are very close to completing a draft," said Bob Lohn, northwest regional administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service.
Although the agency announced a delay, it plainly reinforced the Bush administration's long-held position that salmon recovery can occur without compromising dams in the Columbia Basin.
In a news conference Tuesday, Lohn said the revised salmon plan does not anticipate the removal of Snake River dams, as some have urged.
"What our work shows is that you can achieve recovery without removing the dams," Lohn said.
Instead, the government's plan will rely on such measures as removable spillway weirs, designed to aid migrating salmon, on the region's eight major dams.
The dam retrofit represents a "huge step forward for fish and for the regional economy," he said.
In May 2003, U.S. District Judge James Redden rejected the federal government's blueprint for salmon recovery. The judge had already given the Bush administration an extension -- until Nov. 30 -- to reshape its plan. But Redden had also required a draft plan to be released by the end of August.
Conservationists dispute the government's position.
Nicole Cordan, policy and legal director for Save Our Wild Salmon, who has heard details of the new plan but not seen it, said the federal government is now operating from the premise that dams do not jeopardize salmon and steelhead.
"That throws out 10 years of sound science," she said.
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