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Commentaries and editorials

Plan to Reduce Spill
Draws Heat from Fish Advocates

by Staff
The Idaho Statesman, February 29, 2004

The diverted flow would generate more electricity

LEWISTON -- In an effort to meet the high demand for power, federal officials are considering deviating from the Columbia River Salmon Recovery plan, which could amount to a loss of thousands of adult salmon.

The Bonneville Power Administration wants to reduce the amount of water spilled through flood gates at four dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers and instead run the water through turbines.

State and tribal fish agencies and environmental groups are challenging the proposal.

Each year, water is spilled in the spring and summer to help juvenile salmon migrate to the ocean. But the spill is costly, especially in the summer when there is high demand for electricity.

Suzanne Cooper, manager of a policy and planning group at BPA, said the agency is not asking for summer spill to be eliminated, but wants it reduced in July and August at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River, and John Day, The Dalles and Bonneville dams on the Columbia River.

Cooper said the agency could save enough water to produce $8 million to $51 million worth of power.

But flow reduction scenarios would result in fewer fall Chinook returning to the Columbia and Snake rivers. Studies by the agency estimate the loss could be up to 16,000 adult salmon.

The reduction would go against a 4-year-old federal salmon recovery plan calling for spill as a critical component of its anything-but-breach strategy.

BPA officials are investigating cost-effective offsets to make up for the harm to salmon runs from spill reductions. Proposals include reducing pike minnow and smallmouth bass populations because they prey on young salmon.

But state wildlife agencies are skeptical of the BPA´s analysis of the detrimental effects on salmon of the spill reduction, and how much the offset actions would alleviate that harm.

The Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission estimates that reduced spill would result in 35,000 to 70,000 fewer adult salmon returning to both rivers. The tribal commission also believes reducing summer spill will harm water quality, as well as white sturgeon and Pacific lamprey.

Plan to Reduce Spill Draws Heat from Fish Advocates
The Idaho Statesman, February 29, 2004

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