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U.S. Plan to Save Salmon Called Failure

by Jeff Barnard, Associated Press
Spokesman Review, March 1, 2002

Conservation group sees little progress by administration, Congress, agencies

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- The federal plan for saving salmon in the Columbia Basin failed miserably in its first year, with inadequate funding and little progress toward meeting goals, a conservation group said Wednesday.

The Salmon Plan Report Card issued by the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition blamed the Bush administration, Congress and federal agencies for failing to make progress called for on water quality, habitat, passage over dams, harvest and hatchery operations.

"At this rate, we'll reach the first official Salmon Plan check-in point in 2003 without having seen the federal government even try to implement its own plan," said Nicole Cordan, policy director for Save Our Wild Salmon. "It's a shell game without a pea."

The salmon plan was adopted in 2000 as an alternative to a proposal supported by conservationists and Indian tribes to breech four dams on the lower Snake River to improve conditions for salmon protected by the Endangered Species Act.

It called for 199 separate measures to be completed by 2010, with progress reports due in 2003, 2005 and 2008. If no progress has been made in restoring wild salmon returns, the government is supposed to reconsider breaching the four dams on the lower Snake River.

Based on a review of government reports, agency websites and interviews with agency officials, the report card found that only a quarter of the 129 measures that were supposed to be addressed in 2001 were completed.

The Bush administration has failed to fully fund the $900 million a year needed to implement the plan, the report card added.

Less than 25 percent of projects to supply clean cold water for salmon were finished, the report card said. Only 30 percent of improvements to fish passage over dams was done. Less than 20 percent of the improvements to habitat in tributaries and estuaries was done. None of the changes to fishing harvests and hatchery production were completed.

With prime ocean conditions sending record numbers of fish back to the Columbia Basin, the federal government should be taking advantage of this rare opportunity to make improvements that will be critical to have in place when ocean conditions go sour, said Jeff Curtis of Trout Unlimited.

White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said President Bush's support for salmon recovery was reflected in the record $506 million he included in his budget. That is a $68 million increase over the year before.

Corps of Engineers spokesman Doug Arndt said federal dams were not able to meet flow requirements for helping young salmon over dams while migrating to the ocean due to the combination of drought and the West Coast power emergency.

Jeff Barnard, Associated Press
U.S. Plan to Save Salmon Called Failure
Spokesman Review, March 1, 2002

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