This May Not Be the
Idaho salmon and Idaho water users both won in court Friday.
U.S. District Judge James Redden gave young fall chinook salmon help to migrate to the Pacific during a drought year. Redden ordered the government to "spill" more water over four federal dams on the lower Snake River in Washington and one dam on the Columbia River. Spills could begin within two weeks. He also rejected the idea of taking scarce water from Idaho reservoirs to speed up the flow of the rivers.
Idahoans should be pleased with this deal -- since its benefits outweigh the costs.
A big cost will be borne by the Bonneville Power Administration, which produces about one-fifth of the electricity used in Idaho. BPA says the summer spills would cost its ratepayers $67 million, since water spilled over the dams does not go through turbines that generate hydroelectricity but kill young salmon.
We can't be naive. Idaho's rare and precious salmon and Idaho water users are facing a difficult drought year. There won't be any free fixes.
This may not be the last chapter in the courtroom battle over salmon.
The federal government could appeal the spill ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That may be inevitable but would be unfortunate. Idaho water users -- and Idaho salmon -- need the protection they would get under Redden's ruling.
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