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Coalition Seeks to Stop Bush Salmon Plan

by Associated Press
Corvalis Gazette-Times, March 22, 2005

BOISE, Idaho -- A coalition of Salmon advocacy groups has asked a federal judge to rule the Bush administration's $6 billion salmon recovery plan violates the Endangered Species Act.

The coalition which includes Idaho Rivers United and Idaho Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited, fishermen, Indian tribes and businessmen filed for an injunction with U.S. District Judge James Redden in Portland.

Redden rejected the government's previous plan for restoring the fish in 2003, and sent it back to the Bush administration for a rewrite.

The coalition argues the new plan, released in November, does less for salmon recovery than the old proposal. They say the fallacy is saying dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers are part of the "natural river'' environment.

"No single factor has done as much damage to Idaho salmon runs as dams on the lower Snake River,'' said retired Idaho Department Fish and Game biologist Bert Bowler.

The coalition asks that if Redden rejects the latest plan, stipulations be put in place before the government comes up with a different proposal. The stipulations would seek more water to run in the streamflows as young salmons try to get past the dams' turbines, and reservoirs, which experts say will increase the young fish's chance of survival.

"With snowpack levels down this year, migrating salmon will need all the help they can get,'' Bowler said. "In 2001, when the region experienced similar drought conditions, we saw one of the deadliest migrations in recent history.''

While some in the state are eyeing the economic surplus rural towns might face if a salmon and Chinook fishing seasons were restored, others say the government should not determine how to move water in the Snake and Columbia rivers.

"I'm totally against the idea of using Idaho water to defend four lower value dams on the Snake River in Washington state,'' said Idaho rancher John Peavey of Carey. "It's especially bothersome on dry years like this when Idaho water could be put to better use on crops, or to recharge depleted groundwater aquifers.''

Norm Semanko, executive director of the Idaho Water Users Association representing farmers and industry, said in September that the groups should consider releasing fish above the Hells Canyon Dam complex. He contends Snake River water above Hells Canyon has nothing to do with the fish runs below. He warns a federal ruling to the contrary could dry up hundreds of thousands of acres of cropland in Idaho.

Associated Press
Coalition Seeks to Stop Bush Salmon Plan
Corvalis Gazette-Times, March 22, 2005

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