Lawmakers Demand More Help for Salmon,
by Michael Milstein
Nearly 100 members of Congress are demanding that the federal government do a better job protecting Northwest salmon from the effects of Columbia River dams -- and that officials consider removing four dams on the Lower Snake River in Washington.
U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Portland, and Thomas Petri, R-Wisc., led the 92 lawmakers from 27 states who wrote to Conrad Lautenbacher, the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, asking for a more thorough look at measures to help salmon.
They said the draft plan the government has come up with so far to offset the damage done by dams is no better than others that have been rejected by the courts, and may do even less for salmon in some respects.
They said taxpayers and Northwest utility ratepayers have spent more than $7 billion on salmon restoration, with no appreciable progress toward recovery of the species.
"Salmon recovery is worth significant federal investment -- after all, these fish are a cherished national resource, vital to the treaty tribes of the Columbia River and an icon of the Northwest -- but only if the money is directed toward an efficient, effective and science-based plan," they wrote.
If the federal government doesn't improve on its current plan for salmon, "our nation will be faced with yet more gridlock, uncertainty and expense" as imperiled populations of salmon continue to decline, they wrote. Federal agencies are revising their latest blueprint for salmon after receiving public input and face a court order to finish it by May 5.
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