White House Releases Plan to Help Salmonby Jonathan Brinckman
The Oregonian, June 29, 2000
The administration suggests measures to save Columbia River runs from extinction
The Clinton administration released an outline Wednesday of key federal actions -- short of breaching dams -- that it said must be taken if Columbia River salmon are to be saved from extinction.
The measures include a five-year effort to improve and restore the most productive salmon spawning rivers on federal lands in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, along with restoration of the Columbia River estuary, 46 miles of lower river where young salmon and steelhead feed before entering the Pacific.
"Pacific Northwest salmon will thrive again only if we all work together," said George Frampton, acting chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "Federal efforts will not be enough. This must be a true and lasting partnership among all those with a stake in the region's future."
The White House released the outline after Frampton briefed top state officials in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana on Tuesday and representatives of Columbia River Basin tribes on Wednesday.
The White House neither released cost estimates nor said whether the measures could substitute for breaching dams.
"One of our priorities all along is to work with stakeholders to build consensus behind an effective and workable strategy for salmon," said Elliot Diringer, a spokesman for the Council on Environmental Quality. "This is part of that effort."
Tribal officials and conservationists said the measures were necessary but would not lead to the recovery of Snake River salmon unless the four lower Snake River dams were breached and other steps were taken to make the Columbia and Snake rivers less dangerous to salmon. Those steps include releasing additional water from inland reservoirs and modifying remaining dams to make them easier for fish to navigate.
"I'm really worried that this is a trial balloon for a happy-talk plan that won't save salmon," said Pat Ford, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon.
The National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency responsible for saving endangered salmon, was to recommend in May whether the dams should be breached. That recommendation, delayed several times, is now scheduled for late July.
Will Stelle, regional director of the fisheries service, has said the agency probably will not recommend immediate breaching but instead will propose a series of interim steps to aid salmon, such as the measures outlined Wednesday.
The agency would monitor salmon returns and could then decide to breach dams in five years or 10 years if salmon runs fail to improve, Stelle has said.
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