Government Says New Plans Would Make
by Nidhi Sharma
Grants Pass, OR - Columbia Basin hydroelectric dams and irrigation projects would be made safe for endangered salmon under mandated proposals submitted to a federal judge. The new changes, known as biological opinions, would cost millions of dollars but no dam would be removed.
In 2007, U.S. District Judge James Redden said he would turn the job over to an independent panel of experts if the government failed again to come up with working plans to reduce the number of salmon killed in dams along the Columbia River. He called the government's original proposal "seriously flawed." He must now rule if the new proposals meet the demands of the Endangered Species Act for saving the salmon.
However, the new proposal faces stark criticism from salmon advocates who blasted the plan for its dependency on restoring habitat in tributaries to boost fish numbers and not enough on reducing the numbers of young salmon killed by dams.
A large number of young salmon on the Columbia and Snake Rivers are killed by 14 federal hydroelectric dams on their way to the sea. The salmon protection group wants the new proposal to include removing four dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington.
Turbines and spillways in the dams kill a large number of young salmon headed downstream during the spring by turbulence or abrupt pressure changes. It adds up to a major death toll of salmon, which is the reason for the shutdown of commercial and recreational salmon fishing this year in the ocean off California and Oregon.
Modifications to the dams include changes in dam operations, breeding young salmon around dams, expanded predator control and improvements to river habitat, which is expected to cost $75 million a year, the government estimated.
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