Groups Set to Fight for Fish in Courtby Herald staff
Tri-City Herald, April 20, 2001
After months of fretting about the plight of salmon in this year's drought, environmentalists Thursday showed they're ready to fight for fish in court.
Their target agencies include the Bureau of Reclamation, which runs massive irrigation projects on the Columbia, Yakima and upper Snake rivers, and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is mandated to protect endangered species. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also is in the groups' sights.
In recent weeks, federal agencies have put major salmon restoration programs on hold, citing the need to produce power instead of protect fish.
Columbia River flows are near record lows, jeopardizing reliable power in the region, which relies heavily on electricity produced by dams.
"We're not going to just sit by and watch the Bush administration use the current energy crisis to justify gutting conservation measures that salmon and steelhead desperately need this year in order to avoid being massacred," said Scott Bosse, conservation scientist at Idaho Rivers United in Boise.
Several conservation and fishing groups Thursday filed notices in Portland that they intend to sue federal agencies for their handling of water this year.
Among other things, the groups are angry the government has decided to curtail spilling water over Snake and Columbia dams. When water is spilled, it doesn't generate power, but it does give juvenile fish a way past a dam besides going through the turbines.
Also, the groups are charging the government with failure to protect salmon in the Hells Canyon Complex, three dams on the Idaho-Oregon border. Finally, they aim to force the Bureau of Reclamation to release water for fish from the upper Snake River -- water that is prized by Idaho's vast farm community.
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