Salmon Summit Needed to Correct NMFS Errors, Foes Sayby The Associated Press
Tri-City Herald, November 25, 1999
WASHINGTON - More than a dozen environmental groups Wednesday asked President Clinton to convene a "salmon science summit" to correct what they called serious errors by the National Marine Fisheries Service in trying to restore Pacific Northwest salmon populations.
Scientists from other federal agencies - as well as state and tribal officials - should meet by Feb. 1 to fix the problems caused by NMFS, according to American Rivers, the Sierra Club and other groups.
The 17 groups' letter to Clinton is their strongest disapproval yet of a salmon recovery working paper the fisheries agency presented last week.
But a spokesman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality expressed confidence in the Fisheries Service.
Elliot Diringer said while he hasn't seen the environmentalists' letter, Clinton has supported the path NMFS is taking toward fish recovery in the Pacific Northwest.
"Sound science is the foundation of this whole process," he said.
The "Four H Working Paper" NMFS released a week ago outlined the agency's view on the most effective way to restore salmon in the Snake River.
NMFS said the most effective scenario would be to breach the four dams in the lower river, increase federal regulation to protect habitat, reduce overall production of fish in hatcheries, increase efforts to artificially produce wild fish and allow minimal amounts of fishing.
Short of that, the working paper set out options for habitat protection, which means reduced logging and increased regulation of farming and ranching, among other things.
But environmentalists faulted the paper for downplaying the possibility of dam removal.
"The NMFS paper definitely sets the stage for delay," said Justin Hayes of American Rivers.
"It is so apparent that they are looking ... to say 'We need more information about that and therefore we must delay.' "
The letter to Clinton also complains NMFS set the bar for salmon recovery too low, underestimated the risk of extinction and failed to identify habitat measures that would help salmon - and what those measures would cost.
Federal officials are studying the possibility of removing the earthen portions of Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams on the lower Snake River in Washington, where spring and summer chinook face likely extinction in the next 10 years and steelhead in the next 100.
The Four H paper is part of a series of federal hearings and studies converging on a breaching decision next year.
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