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Fish Funds

by Editorial Writers
In Our View: The Columbian, January 27, 2004

Bush adviser announces proposed increase for salmon recovery efforts

When it comes to fish, the Northwest offers a tough crowd to please. Where else would a $10 million increase in salmon recovery efforts be met with as much protest as gratitude?

President Bush's increase, if approved by Congress, would bring the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund to $100 million for the 2005 fiscal year. That's good news. Bush's senior environmental adviser, James Connaughton, made the announcement at Bonneville Dam on Monday while visiting a new salmon bypass chute.

The chute is 2,800 feet long, costs $48 million and should help improve the survival rate of ocean-bound juvenile salmon. It's just one excellent example of how federal dollars are helping rivers move fish more safely. Rivers in the Northwest have been dammed and dirtied to such a degree that the 26 runs of West Coast salmon and steelhead listed as threatened or endangered have an arduous journey.

Officials visited another worthy fish improvement project made possible, in part, by the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund: the new dam at Duncan Creek.

Property owners at Skamania Landing combined their money with federal and private grants to build the dam. The original one, built in the 1950s, did not allow for fish passage. It did create a scenic lake for area residents to enjoy. Today's dam is engineered to allow migration during fall, winter and spring. After the fish have passed, the dam's gate is dropped so the residents can have the lake back.

These innovations were praised by the Bush team, but protesters worry that the innovations will be used as justificationfor continuing or employing practices that are most harmful to fish. They want the four Snake River dams breached and they fear another reduction of important spillwater in summer months, even though such a reduction seems unlikely.

The Associated Press reported that environmentalists and concerned tribes were remarking on the irony of the administration's choice of venue Monday.

"They're making salmon speeches at big dams. But dams are extremely lethal for fish," said Charles Hudson, spokesman for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

"They're consciously choosing dams over fish," said Brady Bennon of Save Our Wild Salmon, a Portland-based group.

It would be more accurate to say the federal government is choosing people and cheap power over fish. But the critics have an excellent point: We might not need so many mitigation efforts were it not for so many fatal turbines and so much water-hogging on the rivers.

While dam breaching appears to be off the table, not only with this administration but those that have come before, spillwater in summer months must not be reduced. Not everything can be measured in dollars, and money can be recouped more easily than endangered fish.

It's important for the Northwest to keep sending that message.

Fish Funds
The Columbian, January 27, 2004

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