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Ecology and salmon related articles

Locke to Unveil Salmon-Saving Plan

by Erik Robinson
The Columbian, December 11, 2004

Everyone agrees imperiled salmon and steelhead in the lower Columbia River need clean water, ample spawning grounds and a fighting chance against predators.

For now, at least, they'll get a thick sheaf of paper.

Gov. Gary Locke will visit Vancouver on Wednesday to formally present a salmon recovery plan for the lower Columbia River to Bob Lohn, regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The plan, which includes some 600 actions to promote salmon recovery, applies to 5,700 square miles of drainage basins from the gorge to the coast on the Washington side of the river.

"It is really the first state-generated recovery plan here in the Northwest," said Jeff Breckel, executive director of the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board.

The state Legislature created the board in 1998 to come up with local approaches to recover salmon and steelhead listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The board includes citizens and local government representatives from Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, Lewis and Wahkiakum counties.

The plan culminates an effort that took three years and $2.5 million, and Breckel vowed that it will have a real benefit for imperiled fish.

"The board didn't want to create a plan that was just sitting on a shelf," he said.

Fourteen members of the fish recovery board approved the plan unanimously on Friday.

The plan maps river basins, identifies shortcomings for imperiled salmon, and prioritizes changes needed in each watershed to best recover salmon. It recommends actions that range from targeted harvest reductions and replacing damaged culverts, to hauling salmon around dams such as PacifiCorp's on the North Fork of the Lewis River.

"Completion of this plan is a substantial step forward in salmon recovery," Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife director Jeff Koenings wrote in a letter to board chairman Bill Dygert of Vancouver. "It provides the scientific foundation that will ground Washington's salmon-recovery implementation efforts."

Lohn has pushed for locally driven plans to be the cornerstone of salmon recovery.

Cowlitz County Commissioner Jeff Rasmussen, who replaced outgoing commissioner Bill Lehning on the fish recovery board this week, said he's not convinced it's realistic to assume the plan will be carried out particularly by cash-strapped local governments such as Cowlitz County, which just laid off seven employees.

Even so, Rasmussen said the plan is at least a start.

"The federal government declared an endangered species, so we need to do something," he said. "I'm not sure a whole bunch of paper solves the problem, but obviously any plan to recover the species has to start on paper."

Erik Robinson
Locke to Unveil Salmon-Saving Plan
The Columbian, December 11, 2004

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