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Salmon Issue Could End in Lawsuit

by Jessica Sanchez
KPVI News Channel 6 - September 3, 2003

The latest move to protect salmon and steelhead populations has farmers and irrigators wondering if their water supplies will be cut off next year. Jessica Sanchez takes a look at what the Idaho Rivers United and groups like it are proposing.

Members of the Idaho Rivers United and the Idaho Conservation League say dams and reservoirs along the Snake River are harming salmon and steelhead, which are endangered species. They have now given the Bureau of Reclamation 60 days to fix the problem, or face a lawsuit.

Biologists estimate that when Lewis & Clark passed through Idaho on their way to the Pacific in 1805, Idaho's rivers and streams teemed with 4-million wild salmon and steelhead. Today, most runs of salmon and steelhead in Idaho are so low in numbers that they are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act - an act Idaho Rivers United says the Bureau of Reclamation is violating.

In a phone interview, Bill Sedivy, executive director of IRU, says there isn't enough waterflow along the Snake River to allow the fish to make it past the dams and migrate to the sea. Sedivy is asking that several dams and reservoirs along the river be partially removed.

He says if the Snake River can be managed in a way that makes it more like a river and less like a lake, Idaho's fish will be saved. But local irrigators say some farmers rely on that water to feed their crops.

Steve Howser, Aberdeen Springfield Canals:

"You don't have to look far to be certain that what drives our economy is agriculture, and without storage water, a huge portion of agriculture would cease to exist."

Howser also says the latest study by NOAA fisheries showed that increasing the flow of water along the Snake River did not help the salmon and steelhead.

"It doesn't make sense for the environmental groups to sue based on flow augmentation when there isn't good data to support that it has a beneficial effect."

But Bill Sedivy says there needs to be a more thorough study done. He also says the problem could work out if the Bureau of Reclamation secured enough money to lease water from farmers who don't use it.

Attorneys for Idaho Rivers United say a lawsuit will be filed within 60 days unless steps are taken to ensure that the Bureau of Reclamation complies with the Endangered Species Act.

Jessica Sanchez
Salmon Issue Could End in Lawsuit
KPVI News Channel 6, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Blackfoot, September 3, 2003

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