Breaching Snake dams best option
Breaching four dams on the lower Snake River in Washington state is the best option for the recovery of threatened and endangered species of salmon, the National Marine Fisheries Service said in a draft scientific analysis released Wednesday.
The scientific analysis, "An Assessment of Lower Snake River Hydrosystem Alternatives on Survival and Recovery of Snake River Salmonids," analyzes the likely biological effects of the two basic options for the Snake River dams: drawdown or breaching of the dams, or continued transport of juvenile fish in barges and trucks.
"Breaching is more likely than any other hydrosystem action to meet survival and recovery criteria for the listed species across the widest range of assumptions and scenarios. Thus breaching is the most risk averse option," the fisheries service said.
The report goes on to say that there are "significant uncertainties" associated with these projections of breaching the dams and that in some cases breaching yields little or no improvement over transportation alone.
"The task of any scientific report of this nature is to evaluate, as clearly as possible, the effects of options available to policy makers," said Terry Garcia, U.S. Commerce Department's assistant secretary for oceans and atmosphere. "This draft options report does just that, no more, no less. It doesn't recommend a preferred course of action nor does it reflect a policy decision."
The report was sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for inclusion in that agency's larger study of Snake River dam breaching. That study will contain a further analysis of the social and economic effects of the options.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to release its long-term recovery plan for the threatened and endangered salmon species by the end of the this year.
A host of environmental groups, including American Rivers, Oregon Natural Resources Council and Save our Wild Salmon, all advocate breaching the four dams on the lower Snake River. The dams in question include Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams.
According to the Oregon Natural Resources Council, the four Lower Snake River dams are to blame for killing 81 percent of ocean-bound juvenile fish and 40 percent of returning adults.
In March, a coalition of 200 Northwest scientists sent President Clinton a letter that warned the Snake River salmon would become extinct within a few decades unless the river is restored to the conditions under which the fish evolved.
Those who oppose breaching the dams argue that losses in irrigation, transportation and power generation will economically cripple the region.
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