Latest Bush Plan to Save Salmon
by Editorial Board
Efforts to breach the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers
are simply misguided as the toll on the regional economy would be devastating.
It is important to protect salmon and take action so the fish thrive in the Columbia and Snake rivers.
However, any action taken must be balanced with the impact it will have on the environment and the people of the Pacific Northwest.
The latest salmon protection plan issued by the Bush administration seems to strive for balance. Yet, so-called salmon advocates don't see balance nor do they see any merit in the administration's plan. That's because they refuse to accept any action plan that doesn't call for the breaching of the dams along the Snake and Columbia rivers.
Their position is as outrageous as it is unreasonable. Breaching the dams would create havoc in the Northwest. Water would flow over farms and houses and leave the economy in shambles.
Those who want to bring down the dams are zealots.
Unfortunately, these zealots have an ally in the U.S. District Court judge who is overseeing the lawsuit that demands the federal government comply with the Endangered Species Act. To this point Judge James Redden has rejected federal efforts as inadequate. Late last year he said the the original proposal was flawed and warned he would turn the job over to an independent panel of experts if he doesn't like the revised plan.
The so-called salmon advocates quickly slammed the Bush proposal claiming it is a step backward because it depends too much on restoring habitat in tributaries rather than focusing on reducing the number of salmon killed by the 14 dams. Or, once again, it's not the right plan because it doesn't call for the dams to be removed.
This issue has been looked at by experts in dams and fish, including those at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The conclusion reached was that dam breaching would do more harm than good.
The 2002 report by Corps officials found that dam breaching would increase the chances of salmon restoration only slightly - if at all - while taking a huge toll on the economy of the region.
As we've said before (but it's worth saying again) Judge Redden should stick to interpreting the law and leave managing the dams and salmon restoration to the experts.
Give the latest plan a chance to succeed.
The fact is nobody knows for sure how to restore the salmon runs. Any plan involves some trial and error, which means it will take some time to know if it works.
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