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Hastings Pushes Bill that Would Help Fish

by Annette Cary
Tri-City Herald, May 1, 2012

(Kevin Wolf/Associated Press) House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., left, shares a laugh with Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., right, before the start of a committee hearing Jan. 26 in Washington, D.C. The Army Corps would be directed to speed up its response to birds preying on salmon in the Columbia River, possibly including killing the birds or destroying their eggs, under legislation approved by the House Appropriations Committee.

The language was inserted in the bill by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.

Research conducted by Oregon State University concluded that Caspian terns, cormorants, gulls and other predatory birds consume as many as 15 percent of endangered Columbia River steelhead smolt as they migrate upstream from Bonneville Dam, according to the bill report.

The September 2011 research report concluded that the biggest benefit to salmon smolt would be seen by reducing predation by Caspian terns nesting at Goose Island in the Potholes Reservoir near Othello. The terns fly over the river and feed on juvenile salmon.

For Snake River juvenile salmon, the biggest benefit would result from controlling predation by terns on Crescent Island, which is just below the mouth of the Snake River, the report stated.

"Every year, Northwest residents pay nearly $1 billion to protect endangered salmon, only for them to be consumed by predatory birds," Hastings said in a statement.

"Instead of limiting how many docks can be constructed on the Columbia River, federal agencies should be making it a priority to take immediate action to address the direct and significant threat of predatory birds to these endangered fish," he said.

This spring, the Corps issued a new management plan encouraging community docks rather than new private docks to reduce affects on endangered fish.

The Corps is in the early stages of preparing an environmental assessment on managing birds that prey on endangered upper Columbia and Snake River fish.

At a public hearing in March in Kennewick, the Corps discussed a preliminary list of options to keep birds, particularly terns, from eating so many fish.

They included hazing the birds or introducing more predators to the birds, including putting up nesting boxes to attract an eagle. Developing new tern habitat and moving some of the population there also could be considered.

Officials at the meeting said that killing terns or destroying their eggs also was an option but that it likely would be a last resort.

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Annette Cary
Hastings Pushes Bill that Would Help Fish
Tri-City Herald, May 1, 2012

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