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Joint Salmon-Recovery Plan Proposed

by Staff and Associated Press
Seattle Times - July 26, 2000

BOISE - Four Northwest governors yesterday released a set of general principles to guide the region's salmon- and steelhead-recovery effort focused on cooperation among the federal, state, local and tribal governments.

They called it a historic agreement among the chief executives of Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana.

Without providing details, the report called for improving habitat including the creation of sanctuaries for salmon, attacking predation of the fish by birds and marine mammals, limiting commercial- and sports-fishery harvests, refocusing some hatchery production toward rebuilding naturally spawning fish and modifying hydropower operations but only as long as the region's electric supply is not jeopardized.

White House officials have said the decision to breach the dams will not be addressed for at least eight years and the soonest the dams could be removed would be in 10 years. The governors' salmon plan takes dam removal off the table for now.

Industrial river users cheered the agreement. Washington fish advocates were far less impressed.

The agreement is anything but historic, said Chris Zimmer of the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, based in Seattle.

"I had to laugh when I heard that word," Zimmer said. "Where are the specifics? Where are the commitments? How is this really new? . . . It's written so vaguely anyone can take anything they want from it."

The Columbia River Alliance said the agreement is "a much-needed plan that is 10 years overdue."'

The river alliance has long touted leaving the four lower Snake River dams in place while pursuing other alternatives for salmon recovery.

"There is a clear recognition that although at this time there is not a political consensus on the fate of the lower Snake River dams, there is still much to be done to restore the Columbia River ecosystem while the question of dam-breaching continues to be debated," Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said. "It is a reflection of what we do agree on."

Kitzhaber is the lone governor who has voiced support for breaching, but he offered to back away from his support if the kind of plan contemplated by the report proves viable.

The release of the document by Republican Govs. Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho and Marc Racicot of Montana, plus Democrats Kitzhaber and Gary Locke of Washington, came two days before federal fishery managers were scheduled to release their recommendations on how the hydropower dams should be operated to foster fish recovery.

"We recognized that implementing this strategy will be very expensive," Kitzhaber said. "While this region will continue to do its share, these are issues of national significance, these are national treaty rights, federal environmental laws. It will need a substantially increased commitment from the federal Treasury."

In a letter to key federal officials, the foursome said the regional strategy consisting of detailed jurisdictional plans "should be reached and accepted by federal and state officials in consultation with tribal leaders no later than January."

Associated Press & Seattle Times staff reporter Lynda V. Mapes contributed to this report.
Joint Salmon-Recovery Plan Proposed
Seattle Times Company, July 26, 2000

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