Council Hears Testimony on Water Planby Dan Hansen, staff writer
The Spokesman Review, November 14, 2002
Most attendees against idea to increase utility power output
Coeur d'Alene -- Eighty percent of those who testified here Wednesday trashed the idea of sending less water down the Snake and Columbia rivers in spring.
But, then, only five people showed up for a hearing on the matter.
Members of the Northwest Power Planning Council are considering the change as a way to help utilities produce more power at times when it's needed most. The change would also help Idaho irrigators who might otherwise be forced to give up some water they'd rather spread over crops.
And Montana biologists say it would do some good for inland fish, like bull trout and sturgeon.
Critics, including many biologists, say the proposal will harm migrating salmon and steelhead. The spring flushes are designed to mimic the natural floods that used to whisk juvenile fish to the ocean in the days before dams.
The critics want the region to start meeting frequently missed target flows, rather than reducing the targets as the council proposals.
Chase Davis of the Sierra Club used the opportunity to tell the eight-member council that it deserves a failing grade for all its efforts to protect fish and wildlife -- one of its prime mandates.
Davis chalked up the latest proposal to "boat-ramp biology from Montana, potato biology from Idaho and the usual waffle, duck and hide biology from the Washington portion of the council."
Davis said any talk of concern for native fish in Idaho and Montana is negated by those states' continued support for new mines and logging near streams.
Rob Walton of the Northwest Public Power Council applauded the council's proposal, saying any additional power production will help keep rates down.
"The fact is that even some of my most liberal members, utilities that I would consider very pro-fish and pro-environment, are telling us that their customers are hurting," Walton said.
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