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Commentaries and editorials

Congressional Action Said to be Needed for Breaching

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune - November 5, 1999

The state supports an action seeking to force Army engineers
to meet standards on the lower Snake River

The Endangered Species Act won't save salmon, according to panelists at Lewis Clark State College's International Exchange Conference Thursday.

The act, which often is championed as the best friend of threatened and endangered species, breeds too much controversy among the diverse parties that need to come together to recover salmon.

"To save salmon we need to remove the dams and to remove the dams we need congressional approval," said Ted Koch of the American Fisheries Society.

But if the region can't come together and agree on breaching, the move is not likely to be approved by Congress.

"The real limiting factor is how many votes you have on the floor of Congress," said John Hoehne, chief of staff for Sen. Mike Crapo.

"Until there is consensus in the region, those votes won't be there."

Koch, Hoehne and Cal Groen, regional director of the Idaho Fish and Game Department, were critical of the act because it places too much power in the hands of the federal government.

Hoehne complained that as the sweeping study by federal agencies on the best way to recover salmon is wrapping up, the feds have clamed up and kept their proceedings secret.

"We're getting very close to the end of this process and they've become invisible. To us that is utterly unacceptable."

Hoehne said the feds need to get people to buy into their plan, but by excluding them from the process that will not happen.

"The ESA, the way it's being implemented, will not recover Northwest fish stocks because the process they have chosen to follow leaves out the very people needed to implement the plan."

Groen said since the early 1990s, when the fish were first listed, the state and others have had to drag the feds into action.

Until the fish are put on the same level as power and navigation and scientific-based solutions are followed, stocks will continue to decline, he said.

If the salmon are saved, and Koch thinks they will be, it will happen because of overwhelming support from the public.

However, the public has not yet reached the conclusions that the dams must go, according to Hoehne.

The dams may be the biggest factor limiting recovery, he said, but other factors such as habitat, harvest and predators also have a big impact, especially when measured cumulatively.

Breaching will not be considered, he said, until every solution short of taking the dams out is tried and exhausted.

The fish will be saved not because of the endangered species act but in spite of it, he said.

"If they are saved it will be because of a regional consensus that is biologically, economically and culturally acceptable."

by Eric Barker
Congressional Action Said to be Needed for Breaching
Lewiston Tribune, November 5, 1999

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