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Spill at Last for the Columbia

by Lance Fisher
Hillsboro Argus, June 16, 2005

U.S. District Court Judge James Redden on Friday ordered the spilling of large amounts of water over Columbia River dams to aid Salmon.

I heard the news Friday evening, a victory for those of us that call the Pacific Northwest home.

A friend of mine had sat in court all day listening to the proceeding that would either make or break salmon runs in the coming years. A ton of interesting information came out of the proceedings, including several references to the cause of this years poor spring chinook returns.

In 2001, very little water was spilled over the tops of the dams. What was concluded is that the adults that were expected to return this year didn't because they never made it out of the river as juveniles.

This in and of itself has cost the region tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Spill has long been considered the best, most effective way of getting juvenile salmon out of the river and into the ocean.

Before dams became common place on the Columbia River, the river naturally flushed young salmon down river.

Today, with over 400 dams in the Columbia Basin, back up behind dams that causes water temperatures to increase and numerous predators (walleye, pike minnow and small mouth bass); it has become increasingly important to assist salmon in their down-stream migration.

The federal government and power interests have long been the biggest opponent of spill. In recent months the feds (National Marine Fisheries) released their Biological Opinion on the Columbia River that contradicted nearly everything that Oregon and Washington state biologists have suggested are fact.

The only thing that the feds got right was the particular river in question. The "spill" decision that came out Friday was a mere extension of the Federal Biological Opinion that was rejected by Judge Redden only a few weeks ago.

How could the National Marine Fisheries miss the mark on so many accounts?

The only conclusion one could make is that the National Marine Fisheries does not represent what's best for fish, but has become a political extension of the political powers that be.

To prove my point, Bob Lohn, the Regional Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service (the federal agency responsible for salmon) indicated that this decision "could make things worse for salmon" and has vowed to fight the decision.

His statement was very much like that of Kevin Banister, a spokesman for PNGC Power: "We're not sure that this decision is good for fish," which coming from a power spokesman is to be expected, but a regional director for NMFS?

So in a nut shell, the people of the Pacific Northwest get to fight a tax payer funded organization (NMFS) with private dollars to protect one of our biggest economic resources.

The battle is far from over and probably the most important thing that people can do is write your Congressman, Senator and State Representatives.

Lance Fisher is a professional salmon, steelhead, trout and sturgeon guide
Spill at Last for the Columbia
Hillsboro Argus, June 16, 2005

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