NW Recovery Plan Sets
by Tom Banse
The Bush Administration is making its third try at convincing a federal judge that Northwest dams and irrigation programs can be made compatible with endangered salmon. The jury is out on whether the latest plan will pass muster. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.
THE RIVER AND DAM OPERATIONS PLAN ENCOMPASSES FOUR-THOUSAND PAGES OF GENERAL POLICIES AND DETAILED ON-THE-GROUND PROJECTS. THE NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE COORDINATED THE PLAN BECAUSE IT'S IN CHARGE OF SALMON RECOVERY. REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR BOB LOHN SAYS THE GOVERNMENT IS RAISING THE BAR FOR ENSURING YOUNG FISH SURVIVE THEIR MIGRATION TO THE SEA.
LOHN: "The numbers: 96 percent survival for juvenile fish passing each dam in the spring, 93% in the summer. Never had standards that high before."
ELECTRIC RATEPAYERS WILL FOOT THE BILL FOR EXPENSIVE MODIFICATIONS TO DAMS AND RIVER FLOWS. THIS LATEST PLAN INCREASES FISH AND WILDLIFE SPENDING BY 75 MILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR OVER THE LAST VERSION, WHICH WAS TOSSED BY A FEDERAL JUDGE.
A COALITION OF FISHING AND CONSERVATION GROUPS ARE UNIMPRESSED. THEIR LEAD ATTORNEY, TODD TRUE OF SEATTLE, GIVES EVERY INDICATION THEY'LL RETURN TO COURT.
TRUE: "I think you'd have to think this plan is a real thumb in the eye of anyone in this region or in the country that cares about the ultimate protection and recovery of wild salmon. It will not stop the continued spiral to extinction of these fish."
GREEN GROUPS SAY REMOVAL OF THE FOUR LOWER SNAKE RIVER DAMS NEEDS TO BE ON THE TABLE FOR ANY PLAN TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY.
THE JOUSTING IS DEJA VU TO THE AUTHOR OF A NEW BOOK ON NORTHWEST RIVER POLITICS. MIKE BARENTI PADDLED FROM THE IDAHO MOUNTAINS TO THE PACIFIC TO WRITE KAYAKING ALONE.
BARENTI: "In the Columbia, we spend money instead of making hard choices. And that's what we're doing. So I think it is Groundhog Day. Until we reach some sort of social-political decision on what we want the basin to look like - what's important to us - we're just going to keep replaying this."
IT'S UP TO FEDERAL JUDGE JAMES REDDEN IN PORTLAND TO DETERMINE WHETHER THIS LATEST PLAN PASSES MUSTER. BARENTI SAYS ONLY FOOLS TRY TO PREDICT WHAT THE COURT WILL DO. I'M TOM BANSE IN OLYMPIA.
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