the film
Commentaries and editorials

Advocate: Do the Job or Quit

by N.S. Nokkentved
Times-News, October 8, 2000

Salmon supporter calls for power council reps to resign

TWIN FALLS -- Idaho's representatives on the Northwest Power Planning Council should resign, says a salmon advocate.

Idaho's representatives Mike Field and Todd Maddock, along with Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, oppose increasing flows in the lower Snake River to ensure the survival of migrating salmon as required in the council's charter legislation, says Ed Chaney of Eagle.

If they're not going to do the job, they should quit, he said.

Chaney, of the Northwest Resource Information Center, is a long-time advocate for the recovery of Idaho salmon.

Maddock agrees that the council has not been successful in recovering salmon, but he did not agree that the council's efforts have been in vain.

In recent written comments to the council, Chaney said that for 20 years the Power Council has failed to fulfill the requirements of the 1980 Northwest Power Act, which established the council.

The act requires the council to produce a plan to restore salmon and other species affected by the hydroelectric system and a plan to ensure a reliable and economical power supply.

Chaney contends they have done neither. The federal Bonneville Power Administration pays Field and Maddock about $84,000 each annually.

Kempthorne and the council members oppose the requirements of the Power Act that calls for a plan to provide "flows of sufficient quantity and quality between (Snake and Columbia river dams) to improve the production, migration and survival of (salmon and steelhead) as necessary to meet sound biological objectives," Chaney said.

The council's failure has resulted in the current controversy over recovery of endangered salmon, he said.

Kempthorne's office has not yet formulated a response to Chaney, Kempthorne spokesman H.D. Palmer said.

The goals of the council as set out in the Power Act were to ensure adequate, efficient, economic and reliable power supply in the Norhtwest, and to protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife affected by the region's hydroelectric system, Maddock said.

The council reviews its fish and wildlife plan every five years and amends the plan with the intent of accomplishing those goals.

"Obviously the effort hasn't been successful," Maddock said. But that doesn't mean the council shouldn't continue the effort.

But if the flows recommended in 1994 had been adopted, they would have had a serious effect on the reliability of the power supply, council spokesman John Harrison said. And the coucil's charter calls for a balance between fish and wildlife and a dependable power supply.

The council would support increased flows if benefits to fish and wildlife were documented, Maddock said.

Will Stelle, regional director of the National Marine Fisheries Service - charged with recovery of endangered salmon - says the scientific connection between increased flows, water temperature and improved survival of fall chinook is clear and well-documented.

But the data doesn't show whether it's the amount of water or the temperature, Field said. He maintains the flows are adequate and as such, the council's decisions have been in compliance with the act.

Studies show that survival of young fish migrating down through the hydroelectric system is very good - about 98 percent, he said. The problem is that they haven't been coming back in sufficient numbers.
(bluefish correction: surival is not 98% but actually less than 40% survival. See dampass.htm and dampool.htm )

The numbers of fish returning to Idaho - including the wild fish that are the subject of the recovery efforts - are better this year than they have been in many years, Field said.

But the wild fish still are not coming back in numbers sufficient to sustain the species, said Ed Bowles, salmon and steelhead manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The returns of spring and summer chinook salmon this year have been better than in the past few years. The numbers are not in yet for fall chinook or steelhead.

Though numbers still are preliminary, the percentage of wild spring and summer chinook returning is between 1 and 2 percent. Recovery requires a return of 2 to 6 percent, Bowles said.

This year's numbers occurred under the best conditioins in recent years. Conditions were good when this year's fish migrated out two years ago, and ocean conditions also have been good, he said.

Under those conditions, the returns should be in the upper range of 2 to 6 percent, Bowles said. The returns this year are primarily the result of nature's bounty, he said.

N.S. Nokkentved
Advocate: Do the Job or Quit
Times-News, October 8, 2000

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation