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Idaho Sen. Crapo Plans Salmon & Steelhead Hearing, Meeting

by CBB Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - June 13, 2003

Idaho's role in anadromous fish recovery and the future of the 2000 biological opinion regarding government programs on salmon and steelhead recovery will be the focus of dual hearings and meetings in both Idaho and Washington, D.C.

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water, will hold a hearing on June 24 in Washington, DC, to review the future of the federal biological opinion.

The biological opinion issued in 2000 says that planned operations of the Columbia/Snake federal hydrosystem jeopardized the survival of eight salmon and steelhead stocks listed under the ESA, and outlines measures both within the system and off-site that could be taken to avoid that jeopardy.

However, on May 7 U.S. District Court Judge James Redden ruled the "BiOp" as "arbitrary and capricious" and order it to be rewritten.

Crapo will also head a meeting planned for Aug. 9 in Salmon, Idaho, to focus on Idaho's role in salmon and steelhead recovery. Much of the meeting will focus on consolidating stream diversions and other habitat improvements spearheaded by local ranchers and the sState of Idaho with funding from the Bonneville Power Administration. There are concerns that funding could be curtailed due to cutbacks at BPA or because of a lack of continued support from federal agencies.

"The latest court ruling on salmon is an opportunity to improve the BiOp, particularly on the mainstem river system," Crapo said. "At the same time, the strong effort we have made in Idaho to improve habitat to restore these magnificent fish must continue. We must move forward in an aggressive non-breach mode and build on our successes. I join with Gov. Kempthorne and our neighboring governors to bring the best of our local efforts to the table and build a better bi-op that recovers these fish without damaging commerce in the Northwest, especially at a time when our national economy is trying hard to recover."

Crapo called for a renewed effort at collaboration and adequate funding to move ahead where there is local agreement on fish recovery measures. "The estimates that salmon and steelhead fishing brings $90 million into Idaho's rural economy can't be ignored," he said. "Idahoans want their historic fish recovered and they have shown the eagerness to partner in this critical work."

"We must ensure those efforts are amplified throughout the lifecycle and the range the fish travel." Crapo said. "Clearly, much has yet to be done to restore fishable populations on an annual basis."

Crapo's subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C. on June 24 will feature the leadership of several federal agencies and groups funding salmon recovery, from NOAA Fisheries Regional Administrator Robert Lohn to representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. It will begin at 10 a.m. Eastern Time in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 406.

The location of the Idaho meeting Aug. 9 will be finalized following the D.C. hearing, but it is now planned to be held at the Idaho Fish and Game Department's screen shop in Salmon and will be open to the public. Those expected to offer comment include the Upper Salmon River Model Watershed, State Office of Species Conservation, NOAA Fisheries, and the Salmon Coalition. The meeting will follow Crapo's tour of screening diversions along the Lemhi and Salmon River drainage from Leadore to Salmon.

"We must make our system for salmon recovery work. The call to modify the present biological opinion allows us that opportunity," Crapo said. "But if we can't fund the modifications and the work that needs to be done; if we can't work in a collaborative fashion on anadromous fish recovery, we face the real dilemma that the decision-making will be taken out of our hands and put in the courts. We want every opportunity to explore ways to expand our successes."

CBB Staff
Idaho Sen. Crapo Plans Salmon & Steelhead Hearing, Meeting
Columbia Basin Bulletin, June 13, 2003

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