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Snake River Dam Removal Not Expected for 10 Years

by Associated Press
Seattle Times - July 19, 2000

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Snake River dams will stand for at least 10 years - and as long as 15 years - under the most aggressive dam-removal scenario the Clinton administration can envision, an official said yesterday.

The disclosure is another blow to environmentalists, who had hoped the four structures in southeastern Washington could be breached as soon as 2007 in the interests of reviving imperiled salmon runs.

A Clinton administration official, who spoke on a condition of anonymity, said agency heads will decide in five to 10 years whether dam removal is needed, though the exact timing of the decision hasn't been set.

The disclosure came as senior- administration officials prepared to tell Congress why they want to improve salmon habitat, restrict harvests and increase stream flows to help the fish runs recover - rather than breach dams, according to the official and a draft of congressional testimony.

George Frampton, who heads the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Will Stelle, the National Marine Fisheries Service's top official in the Pacific Northwest, planned to lay out their recovery strategy before the Senate's water and power subcommittee today.

The strategy, which includes making adjustments at dams, reforming hatcheries and improving estuaries, will require rigorous monitoring and performance standards, the prepared testimony indicated. Congress will need to be willing to fund the effort, though officials don't yet know how much it will cost.

Stelle said in a draft of his testimony that Snake dam removal "has become for some the litmus test for salmon recovery. It should not be so."

There is "scientific uncertainty" about whether dam breaching is needed, Stelle said. Only Snake stocks - not other listed fish - would benefit from breaching, dam removal could not be implemented quickly, and the high cost of removal would preclude the agency from taking other actions, Stelle said.

"Dam removal may in the end prove to be necessary, but it is not the place to start," he said.

Trout Unlimited, an environmental group, obtained a draft of Stelle's testimony and released it yesterday.

Associated Press
Snake River Dam Removal Not Expected for 10 Years
Seattle Times, July 19, 2000

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