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Loss of Fish Would Ruin Small Towns

by Adam Rush, Associated Press
Spokesman Review, January 20, 2000

Economist says if runs restored, they'd bring jobs, money

An economist who studied the impacts of salmon and steelhead fishing on Idaho's economy is warning that the loss of the fish could be devastating for small communities.

"Rural communities are getting hammered by the impacts on the fishing community," Don Reading said. "Should the fisheries be lost, then one more important economic option will be lost."

Reading presented his study results Wednesday to members of the Idaho Travel Council and Department of Commerce. He conducted the research for the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

"Salmon and steelhead fishing were Idaho's first natural resource industries and still today hold tens of millions of dollars of economic potential for our state each year," Sandy Emerson, the Fish and Wildlife Foundation's president, said in a statement.

The results indicate if salmon and steelhead populations were restored to the levels seen in the 1950s and '60s, the state would see more than $170 million in direct spending by anglers annually, as many as 5,000 or more full-time jobs and millions of dollars from recreationists who currently fish elsewhere.

"Each year, 6,500 Idahoans go to Alaska or Oregon for fishing," Reading said. And his study shows those anglers spend at least $5 million Idaho is not getting.

Other study results indicate salmon fishermen spend an average of $189 a day and would spend more if runs were fully restored.

Reading shied away from taking a position on whether the four lower Snake River dams should be breached to improve salmon and steelhead runs. Advocates of breaching have said restoring natural river conditions is the only way to ensure the runs survive and eventually improve.

On Wednesday, Kempthorne administration attorney Michael Bogert told legislators that the governor's office is preparing for a possible court battle when federal biologists reach a final decision on breaching the lower Snake River dams: either in opposition to breaching or to support a recommendation that breaching is not appropriate.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials also suggested to the lawmakers that if they renew the lapsed agreement for sale of 427,000 acre-feet of water to the federal government to aid salmon migration, they might opt for a two-year pact rather than one year to avoid more red tape.

Although state officials consistently bristle at demands for Idaho water to help salmon migration, some believe the agreement offers Idaho some leverage in future dealings with the federal government.

Adam Rush
Loss of Fish Would Ruin Small Towns
Spokesman Review, January 20, 2000

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