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NW Senators Fault White House Salmon Plan as Vague

by John Hughes, Associated Press
AP State & Local Wire, September 13, 2000

Pacific Northwest senators have criticized a federal salmon recovery plan as vague, saying the document lacks specifics on costs, recovery goals and timelines for bringing back the fish.

Sen. Slade Gorton was the most harsh, saying the draft salmon-recovery plan proposed July 27 by the Clinton administration could flood farmland, dry up lakes, ration water rights and force the spill of millions of gallons of water over dams, threatening the region's electrical power supply.

"If accepted, these proposals would cost hundreds of millions of dollars - if not billions - even before the federal agencies have any idea how much fish they must recover," the Washington state Republican said Tuesday.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said ratepayers in the Pacific Northwest wonder what effect the plan will have on their electricity bills and where the federal government will get the money to pay for the proposals.

Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., said the plan - the National Marine Fisheries Service's biological opinion and a separate administration salmon-recovery plan - lacks priorities, goals and timelines.

"Some of these runs have been listed for nine years now and we don't even have the criteria for what is going to constitute recovery," he said at a water and power subcommittee hearing.

But federal officials defended the plan before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee panel, saying that while the document is not perfect, the framework moves in the right direction.

"If we're going to succeed in this effort ... it's going to take a bipartisan consensus," said George Frampton, acting chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "If we don't find a way to work together, I don't think we're going to succeed."

Agency officials tout the plan, to be finalized by the end of the year, as the most comprehensive salmon-recovery effort ever in the Pacific Northwest.

Among other things, it calls for improving salmon habitat, limiting harvests and reforming hatcheries to recover a dozen stocks in the Columbia Basin listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The document also calls for keeping four Snake River dams in southeastern Washington state for the time being, though federal officials say they could recommend breaching the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Lower Granite and Little Goose dams after five years if leaving them in place doesn't work.

Frampton said breaching dams is the "single most important thing we could do" for the fish, though it may not be essential, probably would not be efficient and would do nothing to recover fish in the Columbia River.

He said the steps outlined in the administration's comprehensive plan will better serve the region's dwindling runs.

Environmentalists say the plan falls short, mostly because it protects the dams.

Industry officials complain that the document does not guarantee dams will be protected in future.

John Hughes, Associated Press
NW Senators Fault White House Salmon Plan as Vague
AP State & Local Wire, September 13, 2000

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