Fish, Wildlife Program Hearing
by Eric Barker
Power planning council updating its plan to offset effects of region's dams
The Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Council took scant public comments at a hearing on its Fish and Wildlife Program in Lewiston on Tuesday.
Jeffery Allen, who represents Idaho on the council, was the sole member present and conducted the hearing in which four members of the public attended, and only two testified.
The council by law must update its Fish and Wildlife Plan every five years. The plan is designed to mitigate impacts to the region's fish and wildlife populations caused by Snake and Columbia river dams. It is built largely on recommendations from state fish and wildlife agencies in Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana and Columbia River American Indian tribes, including the Nez Perce Tribe. The plan guides fish and wildlife project funding from the Bonneville Power Administration.
This year, council members are amending the 2014 plan with an eye toward ensuring the various projects funded under the program are achieving desired results. The update, known as an addendum, also places an emphasis on understanding the effects of climate change; mitigation for salmon and steelhead declines caused by Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams; better understanding ocean conditions and the related effects on salmon, steelhead and marine mammals; predator management; and identifying efficiencies.
David Doeringsfeld, general manager of the Port of Lewiston, said the council should focus on programs that improve smolt-to-adult return rates of salmon and steelhead, while also providing efficient and economical power supplies.
"I think that is the priority you should be undertaking and spending money on improving our salmon and steelhead runs," Doeringsfeld said.
Joseph Anderson, a Lewiston wheat farmer and member of the Idaho Wheat Commission, urged the commission to preserve the four lower Snake River dams and the tug and barge transportation they provide for commodities like wheat. Many salmon and steelhead advocates believe the dams should be breached to improve fish runs.
Anderson called the transportation system the envy of the world, and said it allows farmers like him to quickly and efficiently get their crops to markets in Asia.
"We have been relying on the river system for over 40 years. It's become deeply entrenched in the economics of wheat farming as well as the logistics. The river is quite important to us," he said.
The commission's draft addendum to the fish and wildlife plan is available for review at http://bit.ly/2p3ENeH and open to pubic comment through Oct. 18.
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