Environmental Groups Appeal to Bush
by Eric Barker
Environmental groups presented President Bush and Idaho leaders with more than 85,000 signatures Thursday asking that the government's latest salmon recovery plan be scrapped.
The biological opinion from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which was released last month, undermines salmon recovery, according to the groups, and seeks to protect dams over fish. Environmentalists contend the plan merely aims to keep salmon and steelhead from going extinct and does nothing to seek their recovery.
"People are really disappointed in the Bush administration over their backsliding on the goal and just preventing extinction when they should be promoting recovery," said Bert Bowler, a fisheries biologist from Idaho Rivers United at Boise.
The government's new policy declares the federal hydropower system on the Snake and Columbia rivers does not pose a threat to salmon and steelhead and no longer considers dam removal, even as a last resort, a salmon recovery method.
Instead it calls for the dams to be retrofitted with removable spillway weirs in the next 10 years. The devices allow young salmon to pass the dams using a minimal amount of water and are projected to cost $600 million annually for the next 10 years.
It also considers dams to be part of the river system. Instead of measuring the effect the dams have on fish, the plan measures the effects dam operations have on the runs.
The government rewrote its plan after Judge James Redden of Portland ruled its 2000 biological opinion and salmon recovery plan to be illegal. Redden said there was no proof the government could ensure many of the recovery plan's provisions, such as improvement of upriver habitat, would happen.
The 2000 plan did find the dams to be a threat to salmon and steelhead survival and said they could be considered for removal if other measures failed.
The 85,000 notes, letters and petitions were submitted as official public comment on the draft salmon plan.
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