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Scientists: Fish Plans Should Be Tweaked

by Dean Ferguson
Lewiston Morning Tribune, March 28, 2008

NOAA draft opinion on fish management needs to include climate change provisions, study says

BOISE - Climate change will rush salmon and steelhead to extinction if the government fails to factor it into fish recovery plans, according to the authors of a study released Thursday.

The scientists also said "pollution hot spots" along migratory fish paths, such as Lewiston's pulp mill, must remediate thermal and chemical pollution to save the fish.

Former Oregon Chief of Fisheries Jim Martin of Portland and Senior Global Warming Specialist Patty Glick, of the National Wildlife Federation in Seattle, presented their study on climate change and fish recovery.

The study, called "A Great Wave Rising," offers plans for endangered fish runs. The research was sponsored by Save Our Wild Salmon, the NW Energy Coalition, and Sierra Club.

"We have already entered the age of global warming," Martin told reporters during a telephone conference. Without accounting for climate changes, salmon and steelhead "recovery will be too little, too late, ineffective and wasteful."

The pair put out the study prior the May 5 issuance of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Biological Opinion of how to manage endangered fish in the Columbia River. The government rewrote the opinion after U.S. District Court Judge James A. Redden declared the last plan inadequate.

Martin and Glick said NOAA's new opinion still misses the mark.

"The current draft is terribly inadequate, particularly in regards to global warming," Martin said.

Brian Gorman, spokesman for NOAA, said the plan will change to include global warming.

"We have added a whole bunch of things to the draft, including addressing the issue of global warming," Gorman said.

The changes won't go as far as Martin and Glick recommend. They suggest removing four lower Snake River dams to speed fish passage. The government opinion doesn't endorse that suggestion.

"We don't recommend breaching the dams, certainly we didn't in the draft and we won't in the final," Gorman said. "But there are hundreds and hundreds of opportunities for us to address issues that we hope to restore salmon and certainly keep them from going extinct."

Idaho figures heavily into Martin and Glick's proposal to help fish adapt to wetter winters and hotter summers.

The Snake and Salmon rivers should be key to fish survival.

"The Snake and Salmon wildernesses are the last great anchor," Martin said.

The Environmental Protection Agency also must take a tougher stand on polluters, he added. His report singled out Potlatch Corp. in Lewiston as one example of "thousands" that need tougher standards.

"It's right at the component where the Clearwater pours into the Snake, directly in the main migration path," Martin said.

As for removing four Lower-Snake dams, Martin said the "environmental community" will find ways to compensate farmers for the loss of cheap barging.

"We are not going to save salmon on the backs of farmers," Martin said.

University of Washington climate change and fisheries expert Nate Matua, who conducts NOAA-funded research, said Martin and Glick did a good study.

"They did a good job of summarizing the research," Matua said.

He also said people who work on salmon and steelhead recovery plans have failed to consider climate change.

"It's interesting that we have lots of recovery plans written and are just starting to see interest that the climate is going to change," Matua said.

Politically, government regulators have avoided the topic, he said.

"The political powers have not been thinking that hard of global climate science for most of the last decade," he said.

Gorman said the opinion crafters only recently started embracing climate change science.

"It's fair to say when we were producing a draft in the summer of last year, global warming and climate change were not at the top of everybody's list," Gorman said. "I think what's changed is our knowledge base and awareness."

Martin said NOAA needs to try harder.

"Average people need to know that we know so much more than we're taking advantage of right now," Martin said.

Dean Ferguson
Scientists: Fish Plans Should Be Tweaked
Lewiston Morning Tribune, March 28, 2008

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