Governors' Salmon Strategy Signals
BOISE -- The recommendations for fish recovery announced by the fish recovery announced by the four Northwest governors on July 25 signal the beginning of the end for flow augmentation using water from the Upper Snake River Basin in Idaho, according to the Idaho Water Users Association.
"The four governors have made it clar that flow augmentation using Idaho water will no longer be accepted at face value," said Norm Semanko, executive director and general counsel for the Idaho Water Users Association.
"The governors have challenged the federal government to document the alleged benefits of flow augmentation. In cases where the benefits of flow augmentation cannot be demonstrated, this misguided experiment should be brought to an end," Semanko said.
For irrigators in the Upper Snake River Basin in Idaho, this is good news. "We have known for some time that the use of irrigation water from Idaho for flow augmentation will not result in recovery of the fish. Several studies have confirmed this fact, including a recently completed study conducted by Karl Dreher, director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources," Semanko said.
"Given the lack of scientific evidence supporting flow augmentation and the devastating economic impacts that would result from a long-term flow augmentation program, the current program makes little sense," he added. Current studies conclude that the acquisition of even 427 thousand acre-feet of water from the Upper Snake every year would result in thousands of acres being taken out of production.
"Continuation of the current flow augmentation program is at odds with the four governors' stated goal of adopting salmon recovery measures that are 'biologically sound' and 'economically sensitive," Semanko said. "We are confident that the action taken by the governors today will result in an end to the current flow augmentation program, particularly from the Upper Snake River Basin in Idaho.
"While we certainly do not agree with everything contained in the governors' strategy, we believe that it contains many important elements. In particular, we are heartened by the governors' recognition that, so long as any flow augmentation program continues, water can only be acquired on a voluntary basis from willing sellers, pursuant to state law. This is a bedrock principle which must not be ignored by the federal government."
Semanko concluded, "We also welcome the governors' willingness to tackle the known causes of salmon mortality, including predators, harvest and ocean conditions. It is high time that these factors be given more serious attention."
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