Senator Targets Portland Centerby Matthew Daly, Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Angered by a federal court order to spill extra water through federal dams to save endangered salmon, an Idaho senator is trying to kill the agency that tallies the survival of fish as they swim through the heavily dammed Columbia River Basin.
Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, is angry at a recent ruling by U.S. District Judge James Redden requiring the Bush administration to spill more water over four hydroelectric dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers to help young salmon migrate to the sea.
The Bonneville Power Administration, which sells electricity generated by the dams, estimates that spilling the water rather than running it through turbines will cost Northwest customers about $67 million.
The language Craig has inserted into an energy spending bill that could be voted on next week would eliminate the Fish Passage Center, an 11-person agency in Portland that collects and analyzes data documenting the effectiveness of the government's multibillion-dollar effort to save salmon.
A spokesman for Craig called the measure more than an attack on the tiny agency, which has an annual budget of just $1.3 million. Instead, the spokesman, Sid Smith, called it "a shot across the bow" to challenge what Craig considers an excessive amount of money being spent on fish and wildlife recovery by the BPA, which supplies about 40 percent of the power used in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and western Montana.
"It's time not just for the Fish Passage Center but all of the fish and wildlife expenditures of BPA to be re-examined to see if we can find any efficiencies or inefficiencies and make sure we are getting the most bang for the buck," Smith said yesterday.
The BPA, which operates 31 dams and one nuclear plant, spends about $300 million a year on programs to protect fish and wildlife and loses another $250 million a year in potential revenue because of those programs -- which overwhelmingly benefit salmon, said Mike Hansen, a BPA spokesman.
BPA funds the center but it is administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
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