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Crapo Seeks Money for Salmon

by Rocky Barker
The Idaho Statesman, May 3, 2001

Senator supports alternatives to breaching dams

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo still thinks endangered salmon and steelhead can be saved without breaching dams or draining Idaho reservoirs. Now he's trying to get Congress to back him up with money.

Crapo, Idaho's junior Republican senator, will propose an increase of more than $360 million in salmon spending in the Pacific Northwest. The money would be used for options, including screening irrigation ditches, modifying dams, and restoring spawning habitat.

"I have said for some time if we can save the fish without breaching we should do so," Crapo said. "There are others who say nothing short of breaching will work. This effort will help establish who's right and who's wrong."

Crapo would increase salmon spending in the region from $314 million to about $675 million, funding actions called for in a federal salmon plan released in December. The plan, the biological opinion on Columbia and Snake River hydroelectric dam operations, is designed to protect 12 stocks of endangered salmon and steelhead.

It calls for a review of the breaching option in three, five and eight years. Crapo's proposal is designed to fund the projects that biologists say are necessary to prevent the fish from going extinct and from making breaching necessary.

"The salmon are an icon of the Pacific Northwest," Crapo said. "They are part of our cultural, environmental and spiritual heritage. It would be a tragedy if they would go extinct. That is the most important reason to make this effort."

Tom Stuart of Stanley, a board member of Idaho Rivers United, said he wanted to see details of Crapo's spending plan before commenting on the specifics.

"It's to his credit he's going to put a plan on the table," Stuart said. "He's exercising leadership in the majority party for the fish."

The centerpiece of Crapo's Idaho funding would be habitat, water quality and migration improvements in the upper Salmon River watershed.

The Upper Salmon Basin Watershed Project, based in Salmon, has been working to improve conditions in the river since before the fish were listed as endangered in 1992. Often, ranchers and farmers have volunteered their own time and equipment to build fences, reconnect tributaries and plant trees to lower water temperatures in spawning streams.

"We've got a lot of people who would do the projects on their own if they could afford to," said John Folsom, the project coordinator. "Funding is crucial."

Crapo met with Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber on Wednesday to discuss the proposal. Kitzhaber, a Democrat, has criticized federal officials for not doing enough for salmon this year.

Crapo's bill would not support programs that encourage breaching or the use of Idaho water to boost flows to help fish.

Despite his support for Crapo, Stuart said habitat-improvement programs in Idaho are "sideshows" to improving migration through the dams.

"I don't want anyone to assume these are key steps in salmon recovery," he said.

But Crapo believes all of his proposals are important.

"I believe there is a tremendous amount that can be done," Crapo said.

Elements of Crapo's salmon proposal

Related Site:
Biological Opinion - Federal Salmon Plan

Rocky Barker
Crapo Seeks Money for Salmon
The Idaho Statesman, May 3, 2001

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