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Water Over the Dam Works for Salmon

by Editorial Board
Seattle Times, April 7, 2010

THE Obama administration is being told by federal fish biologists and fishing groups to keep spilling water over dams in the Columbia and Snake river basins. Heed the advice.

Stick with what has been successful since 2006, when federal District Judge James Redden ordered the spills kept in place, even through a low-flow water year.

Science supports spilling water to help move juvenile salmon quickly and safely toward the Pacific Ocean. Better-than-expected returns have reinforced the decision to expedite fish passage at the dams.

The administration served notice it wants to eliminate spills next month, opting to transport young salmon and steelhead in barges and trucks past the dams. A recommendation is expected soon from the Independent Science Advisory Board of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

The council's role is to balance power generation and environmental considerations for the region. This kind of decision goes to the heart of the council's dual mission.

Sending water and salmon over the dams means less power is generated and less money is made. But the region has also aggressively litigated salmon survival and spent billions of dollars to restore healthy salmon runs.

Acknowledging the role of spills, with less water flowing past turbines, comes at a time when the power side of the council is promoting the potential for conservation to provide a substantial amount of future power needs.

The administration is hearing from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Fish Passage Center in Portland, as well as the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, among others. The common theme is to stay with what has worked.

Spring spills move young salmon toward the ocean.

Editorial Board
Water Over the Dam Works for Salmon
Seattle Times, April 7, 2010

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