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F & W Report Suggests Steps for Saving Fish

by Rocky Barker
The Idaho Statesman, December 17(?), 1999

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will recornmend today that breaching four dams on the Snake River provides the most benefit to endangered salmon.

Nine federal agencies will release reports today outlining alternatives for saving salmon and steelhead. The Fish and Wildlife Service is the only one that will make a recommendation on how to best save the fish.

Other federal officials say they are neither prepared to recommend breaching - the natural river option - nor to take it off the table. The natural river drawdown alternative would pro vide many more benefits to fish and wildlifethan the other three alternatives " the agency said in the report, part of which was obtained by The Idaho Statesman on Thursday.

Salmon are a cultural and natural icon of the wild character of the Pacific Northwest, an icon that generates tens of millions of dollars from sport and commercial fishing. The four Snake River dams in Washington produce 5 percent of the region's electric power and allow shippers to barge wheat and other goods from Lewiston to the Pacific Ocean.

The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act Report is advisory, and not an endorsement of dam breaching, said Bill Shake, Fish and Wildlife Service deputy regional director in Portland. The report, required by Congress, was nar rowly focused on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' three alternatives being considered for improving migra tion through the Snake River in Washington.

The Fish and Wildlife Service - part of the Department of the Interior - is responsible for most endangered species, bit it is not in charge of Pacific salmon and steelhead recovery. The National Marine Fish eries Service, part of the Department of Commerce, is the lead agency for Snake River Basin fish under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The National Marine Fish eries Service has said that dam breaching presents the lowest riskto salmon, bit that agency also saf d it believes the fish can be saved without breaching.

Nine federal agencies, called the Federal Caucus, have attempted to coordinate and reconcile their positions on salmon so they can speak as one voice. The Fish and Wildlife Service's findings on the dams in todays report set them apart.

'The highest levels of Interior have reviewed it and are comfortable we have met the intent of our responsibilities, Shake said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will release a draft environmental im pact statement today on how to improve juvenile salmon migration through four dams.

The Corps must decide next which of the three alternatives to recommend to Congress:

The Fish and Wildlife Service said continued or improved barging would improve salmon migration only slightly. Breaching dams would not only help migration significantly but also would increase rearing and spawning habitat, help salmon survive against predators and also help sturgeon, endangered bull trout and wildlife.

In addition to the federal agencies, next?

The states of Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana and Columbia River Indian tribes with treaty rights are involved in efforts to save salmon. By law, federal agencies must consult with those parties before making any decisions on the species.

This document has been extensively reviewed by technical people within the four states, the tribes and federal agencies," Shake said.

The Fish and Wildlife reports results do not conflict with the so called All-H draft the Federal Caucus also will release today.

It outlines salmon restoration efforts that can be made in four areas: hydroelectric dams, loss of salmon habitat, effects of hatcheries on salmon genetics, and the impact of salmon and steelhead harvest

The impact humans have across the salmon life cycle must be addressed if salmon extinction is to be prevented, said National Marine Fisheries Service spokesman Brian Gorman in Seattle, The service says it will neither endorse breaching nor take it off the table today, leaving the Pacific Northwest to come up with a comprehensive salmon plan.

My problem with dam breaching is, if you focus on it and don't understand that salmon have an enormously complex life cycle, you forget that the solution absolutely will have to be broad-ranging,"

Rocky Barker
F & W Report Suggests Steps for Saving Fish
The Idaho Statesman, December 17(?), 1999

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