by Greg Moore
Letter signed by 100 sent to White House
A letter to the Obama administration signed by 100 people, including representatives of 42 fishing-related businesses and 34 conservation organizations, asks that actions be taken to improve the survival of salmon and steelhead traveling downstream in the Columbia River basin.
The letter, dated Nov. 10, requests an executive order directing the federal managing agencies to ensure faster water travel times and decreased temperatures for fish. It asks for more spill of water to aid fish passage past Columbia and Snake River dams and a drawdown of reservoirs behind Lower Granite and John Day dams during the summer to increase river velocity and cool water temperatures there.
In addition, the letter requests that the agencies be directed to accelerate all efforts to keep water temperatures in fish ladders cool enough to prevent the delay or death of migrating adults during hot weather.
The letter notes that high water temperatures were responsible for the 97 percent death rate for Idaho-bound sockeye salmon in the hot summer of 2015.
The letter contends that increasing spill—allowing water to flow over dams instead of through their power-generating turbines—is the easiest and most cost-effective way to drastically decrease mortality, but often is accomplished only by court order.
This letter was delivered while public comments are being taken on federal salmon recovery efforts. A federal judge ruled in May that the current plans to protect salmon are inadequate and illegal, and has given the agencies involved five years to conduct a new National Environmental Protection Act analysis of their actions aimed at recovery.
"In the meantime, adult and juvenile fish migrating [through] the Columbia River need help now," Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, stated in a news release. "Salmon-dependent communities believe a transparent and honest look at making major changes is long past due. But the government's approach so far means it will be years before a real fish will notice the benefit."
The letter's signatories include representatives from Idaho Rivers United and the Idaho Conservation League, as well as Terry Ring, owner of Silver Creek Outfitters in Ketchum.
The letter was delivered to Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries in the U.S. Department of Commerce.
As part of its effort to gather public input about how to manage the 14 dams in the Columbia Basin, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is holding 15 meetings throughout the Northwest, which started Oct. 24 and will run through Dec. 13. The schedule includes a meeting in Boise on Tuesday, Nov. 29.
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