Pacific Northwest Governors say They'll
by Pete Danko
They say they'll put aside differing views on recent federal environmental review.
Gov. Kate Brown has joined with the governors of Washington, Idaho and Montana in an agreement "to define a future collaborative framework to analyze and discuss key issues" related to the fate of threatened salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin.
The collaboration sounds a bit nebulous, but conservationists, disappointed that a recent federal review of Columbia River System dam operations didn't recommend breaching four lower Snake River dams, said they were encouraged it could open the door to "bold action required to restore the river."
A group representing river power, shipping and agriculture interests said it was supportive as well, but emphasized its belief that science has shown that climate change, not dams, has most hindered salmon recovery.
In a joint letter, the governors acknowledged they may differ on the recent federal review. But they added that "regardless of those differences and separate from each state's recourse," they were committed to reaching goals outlined by the Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force, a group of stakeholders working since 2017 on the contentious issue.
The task force agreed on goals and broad considerations for achieving them, but said further work was needed to develop strategies and actions.
In February, Brown said in a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee that she believed "the science is clear that removing the earthen portions of the four lower Snake River dams is the most certain and robust solution to Snake River salmon and steelhead recovery."
The Yakama Nation, joined by the Lummi Nation and supported by the environmental advocacy Columbia Riverkeeper, has called for ridding the Columbia of the Bonneville, Dalles and John Day dams.
Those are possibilities the group Northwest RiverPartners doesn't want to see growing out of the four-state collaboration.
"While there are many stakeholders who genuinely believe that dams have been the limiting factor in salmon recovery, recent research has shown that this anti-dam conclusion is not scientifically founded," it said in a news release.
But a coalition of conservation groups focused on the dams in a news release, highlighting the deep divide on the issue.
"We appreciate the governors taking this crucial step to help salmon, orcas and communities impacted by the lower Snake River dams after federal agencies failed us yet again," Meg Townsend, an endangered species attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "We hope the governors follow the clear scientific evidence and take the necessary, bold action required to restore the river."
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