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Governor Blasts Federal Salmon Efforts

by Jeff Barnard, Associated Press
Coos Bay, Oregon, The World, January 11, 2005

GRANTS PASS -- Gov. Ted Kulongoski demanded Monday the Bush administration commit to restoring Northwest salmon in its plan for operating Columbia Basin hydroelectric dams.

"As governor, I will not sit by while the federal government attempts to dismantle our environmental legacy, undermine our values and erode our sovereignty," Kulongoski said in his State of the State address in Salem. "The time has come to draw a line and say enough! That's what I intend to do starting with the federal government's 2004 Biological Opinion for the Columbia River Power System."

Kulongoski warned that he is willing to join a lawsuit brought by environmental and fishing groups over the biological opinion, which is the federal government's blueprint for balancing salmon against federally operated dams in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

"This is in Oregon's long-term economic interest because the sooner salmon gets back up to abundant levels, the greater the opportunity to avoid restrictions imposed on our economy by state and federal law," Kulongoski said.

Kulongoski supports plans to install fish slides on major dams to help young salmon migrating to the ocean avoid deadly turbines, but also feels much of the federal money spent on salmon could be allocated for better projects, said Jim Myron, environmental adviser to the governor.

Myron said the governor's position was laid out in a meeting last week with the federal agencies responsible for the dams. The governor has until early February to decide whether to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff.

The biological opinion is a document produced by NOAA Fisheries to assure that the dams do not harm 14 species of salmon and steelhead protected by the Endangered Species Act.

A federal judge declared the 2000 version illegal. The changes offered by the Bush administration last fall jettisoned a movement toward restoring the Columbia and Snake rivers to a more natural condition, and embraced the eight major dams as part of the landscape that could not be removed.

NOAA Fisheries spokesman Brian Gorman said the federal government remains committed to salmon recovery, but the biological opinion only determines whether dam operations harm protected salmon. A draft salmon recovery plan will be issued later this year.

The governor's position was welcomed by salmon advocates, but criticized by Senate Republican leader Sen. Ted Ferrioli as a drag on Bush administration efforts to create new jobs, especially in rural communities.

Related Pages:
22 Sockeye Return by Jennifer Sandmann, Seattle Times 9/1/4

Jeff Barnard, Associated Press
Governor Blasts Federal Salmon Efforts
The World, January 11, 2004

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