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Dam Spills Focus of Debate

by Staff
Salem Statesman Journal - February 28, 2004

A hearing is set to discuss the pros and cons of spillways to help fish.

To spill or not to spill, that is the question.

Thatís the crux of a hearing on Monday in Portland about releasing water during the summer from spillways on Columbia River dams to help young salmon and steelhead get downriver to the ocean.

Proponents of the spills say they are the best way of helping ensure safe passage past the dams.

Opponents say that the loss of water is a waste, and that spills are ineffective at best, and potentially destructive to fish at worst.

A hearing on the subject is set in front of members of the Oregon House Interim Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water.

It will be held in the auditorium at the Central Portland Workforce Center of Portland Community College (which is not on the main campus).

Advocates for cutting or eliminating the spills include utilities and agricultural irrigation interests.

Lined up on the side to continue the spills are a coalition of angling and conservation groups.

Those scheduled to speak include representatives from Save Our Wild Salmon, the governorís office, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission, the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and Northwest Electricity Utilities.

Officials for the Bonneville Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers have proposed reducing the spills in an effort to keep it for power generation and other uses.

But those advocating maintaining the spills said that routing water over spillways rather than through turbines, is the safest way to get the downriver-migrating salmon past the dams.

Spills are far less destructive to the fish than forcing them through turbines or bypass systems, and far more economical than barging salmon downriver past the dams.

In early February, representatives of a coalition of 54 Native American tribes calling itself the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians approved a proclamation opposing any reduction in summer spill at federal dams.

The response was a group of Bonneville Power Administration industrial customers, known as the Coalition for Smart Salmon Recovery (, which issued a statement Feb. 19 saying that cutting the spills could save the power marketing agency up to $77 million a year.

That coalition is made up of industry and agriculture-related groups, including the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, the Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative, the Public Power Council and the Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee.

Biologists for the pro-spill side have said that eliminating or cutting back on the spills during the summer months could affect up to roughly 2 million young salmon and result in the loss of up to tens of thousands of adult fish ó including federally protected Snake River fall chinook and Hanford Reach fall chinook, the last remaining population of relatively healthy wild salmon in the basin.

Save Our Wild Salmon is a nationwide coalition of more than 50 businesses, conservation organizations, commercial and sportfishing associations, river groups and taxpayer advocates.

Hearing on spills

What: A hearing about summer spills on dams on the Columbia River.

Whose hearing: Oregon House Interim Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water.

When: 1 p.m. Monday (public comments are set for 3:30 p.m.)

Where: The auditorium at the Portland Workforce Center, Portland Community College, 1626 SE Water Ave., Portland. Note that this is not the main PCC campus.

Set to testify

1 p.m.: Bonneville Power Administration. Speakers are Greg Delwiche, the vice president of Generation Supply Northwest Power and Conservation Council; John Fazio, a power systems analyst for the council; and Mark Walker, the director of the councilís Public Affairs Division.

1:30 p.m.: Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative. Speakers are Scott Corwin, the vice president of marketing for the Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee; Jim Litchfield of the Litchfield Consulting Group.

2 p.m.: Governorís Office. Speakers are Jim Myron and Tom Byler, natural resources policy advisers. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Speakers are Lindsay Ball, the department director; Ed Bowles, the manager of the Fish Division. Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission. The speaker is Olney Patt Jr., a representative of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs.

2:30 p.m.: Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities. Speaker is Ken Canon, the executive director.

3 p.m.: Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition. Speakers are Nicole Cordan, the policy and legal director; Andrew Englander, a senior policy analyst. Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. Speakers not announced.

3:30 p.m.: Public comments.

Dam Spills Focus of Debate
Salem Statesman Journal, February 28, 2004

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