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Commentaries and editorials

Team to Assess Columbia Salmon

by Mike Lee, Herald staff writer
Tri-City Herald, December 29, 2002

New committee to look at risks to fish under various water management scenarios

The state Department of Ecology has taken a major step forward with the formation of a national study team that will assess salmon survival and environmental conditions on the Columbia River.

The National Research Council committee will evaluate risks to salmon at critical stages in their life cycles under a range of Columbia water management scenarios -- including diversions for hydropower and other purposes -- under historical and current conditions.

Committee members will focus on the main stem of the Columbia River in Washington under a state program called the Columbia River Initiative, or CRI.

The state Department of Ecology is sponsoring the study as part of its effort to determine how much water can be withdrawn and what kind of harm water withdrawals cause.

The CRI promises to be a critical part of Eastern Washington's future water development.

It may, for instance, give state leaders good reason to snub a federal mandate that no more water be taken from the Columbia unless an equal amount is put back in somewhere else. The so-called "no-net-loss" policy virtually has stopped new water withdrawals from the Columbia.

Regardless of what the committee finds, the development of the CRI promises to be controversial because stakes are so high. Mid-Columbia irrigators and Seattle-based environmental groups already have been trying to push the initiative in their favor for months.

The newly formed committee intends to meet four times during 2003 and plans to issue its report in the spring of 2004.

Its first meeting is scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Richland. Subsequent meeting schedules and agendas will be posted on The National Academies Web site at

Names and affiliations of committee members and biographical sketches are posted on the Web site.

Northwest committee members are Richard Adams, Oregon State University, Corvallis; Donald Chapman, Don Chapman Consultants, Inc., Boise, Idaho; Albert Giorgi, BioAnalysts, Inc., Redmond; and Stuart McKenzie, U.S. Geological Survey (retired), Gresham, Ore.

Related Sites:
National Academies

Mike Lee
Team to Assess Columbia Salmon
Tri-City Herald, December 29, 2002

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