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State Still Opposes Boost in Snake Flows

by Associated Press
Idaho Statesman, November 4, 2000

Idaho Water Resources director isn't sure increase would help salmon

LEWISTON -- Idaho Water Resources Director Karl Dreher continued the drum beat of the state's opposition to using more water from the upper Snake River reservoirs to aid salmon migration through the lower section.

Dreher gave the Northwest Power Planning Council, meeting in Lewiston earlier this week, a condensed version of information he says refutes the National Marine Fisheries Service contention more Idaho water would be a great benefit to migrating salmon smolts.

Dreher said flow volumes in the Snake River have not changed appreciably since the records were kept beginning in 1916.

"Because there is no change in flows, it's difficult to conclude irrigation is responsible for the decline of salmon."

Since flows are not the problem, he said, flow augmentation should not be viewed as a solution. Dreher added the velocity of water moving through the lower Snake River has slowed since four dams were built there.

But adding more water to the system will not significantly change that velocity, he said.

In Idaho's official response to the government's proposed strategy for saving 13 stocks of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act, the state questions whether more water needed by irrigators and municipalities in southern Idaho should be used to satisfy an "unsubstantiated biological benefit."

Dreher did say conditions such as turbidity and temperature that are related to flow may benefit salmon. However, the biggest factor in the survival of hatchery-raised juvenile fall chinook appears to be the timing of their release.

He speculated some fish are released before they are ready to migrate and others are held until after the window of opportunity has closed.

Dreher said he could not say that flow augmentation does not produce any benefits, but stressed the fisheries service should not be using the data to justify it.

John Etchart, a council member from Montana, asked Dreher to submit his analysis to the council's independent scientific review panel.

Link information:
Federal Caucus:
Idaho Comments of Draft 2000 FCRPS BiOp

Associated Press
State Still Opposes Boost in Snake Flows
Idaho Statesman, November 4, 2000

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