Salmon Backers Push Corps
by Mike Lee, Herald staff writer
Salmon advocates are increasing legal pressure to breach the lower Snake River dams by demanding the Corps of Engineers tally the cost of making the dams comply with environmental laws.
Following a court ruling last month, the Corps is piecing together a response to meet directives of the Clean Water Act. It still has about 40 days to respond.
Environmental groups - thrilled by the U.S. District Court decision - sent the Corps a letter Wednesday asking the agency to compare costs of breaching to other environmental upgrades at the dams between Pasco and Lewiston.
"We believe that an analysis will confirm that the most cost- effective measure available to the Corps to comply with its legal duties is breaching of the four lower Snake River dams," said the letter from The National Wildlife Foundation, The Sierra Club and other environmental groups.
"Any decision to put off breaching these dams that does not comply with the Clean Water Act will be invalid," the letter said.
There still are many questions about how the Corps can comply with the Clean Water Act, especially in a year when salmon friendly operations are being sacrificed to produce electricity at Columbia-Snake hydropower dams.
"The court made it clear that neither clean water nor salmon restoration can be sacrificed," said Tim Stearns of the National Wildlife Federation.
While the Corps devises operational or structural changes, environmentalists make no secret that their goal is to get the dams torn out. Legal avenues now appear to be their most likely hope after political efforts failed to produce a near-term breaching plan.
"West Coast energy supplies will stabilize over the next few years, while a key remaining question is whether restoring salmon and clean water will be part of the solution," said Glen Spain, with Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "Ignoring the federal court or the Clean Water Act because of the short-term energy situation is neither good policy nor legal."
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