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Northwest Governors Release Fish Recovery Plans

by Mike Lee, Herald staff writer
Tri-City Herald, July 26, 2000

The four Northwest governors agreed Tuesday that restoring salmon runs is a much larger issue than tearing down four lower Snake River dams.

While the joint statement by the states' top officials didn't deal directly with the region's most fractious environmental issue, it did outline a landmark river management program that covers everything from overfishing to salmon predators.

"Finally, someone from the region is stepping up," said Bruce Lovelin at the Columbia River Alliance, a group of river users in Portland.

But he also voiced concern: "We have seen these plans written and written and written, and for one reason or another they go on the shelf and never get implemented."

Environmental groups characterized the governors' agreement as a good start, but didn't back off demands that the four lower Snake dams come down.

"This isn't bad stuff," said Scott Bosse at Idaho Rivers United in Boise. "And we can support a lot of this in the interim -- but as a recovery ... strategy, it gets a grade of incomplete."

"The real work, and the real tests of their consensus, their courage and their commitment lies ahead," said a statement from Seattle-based Save Our Wild Salmon.

At a press conference in Boise, the Northwest governors released their recommendations for Columbia Basin fish restoration. The 17-page document is short on details but is a landmark for coordinated efforts between the states.

Essentially, it's a list of salmon recovery efforts the governors agree on and intend as "useful advice" for the federal agencies that plan to release their detailed river operations plan on Thursday.

In general, the governors pushed local decisions, better coordination of activities and comprehensive reforms.

The governors' agreements didn't include what should happen to the lower Snake River dams, but they matched recent statements by federal officials that the region must look at many more factors for salmon recovery than just the four dams.

"As we all know, the most polarizing and divisive issue we face is the fate of the lower Snake River dams," said Washington Gov. Gary Locke. "This document is an agreement to set aside the breaching option for now."

The governors, however, supported dam upgrades on the lower Snake, saying a potential breaching decision later should not stop the region from trying to help fish get past them.

"We support further modifications to the configuration and operation of the hydrosystem ... (that) do not jeopardize the region's reliable electricity supply," they said.

Among the governors' key recommendations:

Recognizing the substantial cost of their recommendations, the governors said the federal government should help Bonneville Power Administration rate payers with the bill. They said the Basin's salmon and steelhead are "national resources" that Congress should spend more money to help recover.

And the governors asked the president to appoint someone as a salmon czar to live in the Northwest and oversee the complicated, multi-agency fish recovery effort.

Mike Lee
Northwest Governors Release Fish Recovery Plans
Tri-City Herald, July 26, 2000

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