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Commentaries and editorials

Salmon Plans that Failed Reviews
Won't Get Funding

Associated Press
Spokesman Review
- October 15, 1999

PORTLAND -- The Northwest Power Planning Council has recommended against funding $42 million in salmon recovery projects that failed to pass an independent scientific review.

The review, released in June, concluded that a third of the salmon recovery programs funded by the Bonneville Power Administration failed to meet scientific standards.

"It isn't easy to say no," said Todd Maddock, council chairman. "But the public and ratepayers have a right to expect that public money is being spent in the most effective way possible."

Congress established the four-state regional council with the 1980 Northwest Power Act to balance energy planning with fish and wildlife conservation in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Bonneville, the federal power marketing agency based in Portland, provides Columbia Basin hydroelectricity to the region and manages fish conservation programs that now cost Northwest ratepayers about $127 million a year.

Efforts to preserve declining salmon runs have fueled an often bitter debate in the Northwest between a long list of competing interests, including government agencies, Native American tribes, sport and commercial fishermen, the utility and aluminum industries, Columbia River barge operators and farmers.

The scientific review was done after repeated criticism of various programs, such as carrying young salmon past dams in barges, streamside restoration projects and raising fish in hatcheries to replace runs that spawn in the wild.

"The policy-makers are finally paying attention to the science," said Bill Bakke, a director of the Native Fish Society, a Portland conservation group, and a strong critic of hatcheries.

The report by the Independent Scientific Review Panel reviewed the salmon recovery program since 1996, and also included peer-reviewed scientific evaluations of each of the 397 projects submitted to the power council for financing in 2000.

One of the big losers in the funding battle was Native American tribes that wanted to use hatcheries for fish that will spawn in the wild and repopulate the Columbia Basin. The report criticized that plan as risky, and recommended that about $20 million be withheld from tribal programs, mostly for hatcheries.

"Our decisions will not sit well with some people," Maddock said. "But we are committed to making recommendations that best serve the broad public interest."

Officials at the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission were not immediately available for comment.

Last month, the power council recommended 158 conservation projects totaling $68 million for the federal fiscal year in 2000, which began Oct. 1, or 53 percent of the annual $127 million fish and wildlife conservation budget.

There are 150 projects awaiting a decision.

Related Links:
Northwest Power Planning Council
Fish Projects Await Scientists' Opinions Columbia Basin Bulletin, 10/15/99
Some BPA Plans to Aid Salmon Take Hit in Review Oregonian, 6/18/99

Associated Press
Salmon Plans that Failed Reviews Won't Get Funding
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 15, 1999

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