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2-ton Salmon to Beach on Capitol Hill

by Charles Pope
The Oregonian, June 16, 2008

WASHINGTON - Nearly 10 years after losing a fierce battle, a coalition backing the removal of four Snake River dams to restore salmon in the river returns to Capitol Hill tomorrow.

The rally Tuesday at the foot of the Capitol marks the end of a cross-country tour called the Save Our Wild Salmon National Road Show. The tour, which stopped in 30 cities, was designed to draw attention to the dams and generally poor condition of natural salmon in the Northwest.

And just as in the 30 previous appearances, the event will feature a two-ton, 25-foot-long fake salmon with a gaping mouth, named Fin.

The goal, according to organizers, is to spark "congressional leadership for legislative solutions to the declining salmon populations in the Columbia-Snake and other West Coast rivers that have led to unprecedented salmon declines and fishery closures."

The coalition, which includes environmental groups such as Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and Save Our Wild Salmon, along with commercial and sport fishermen, will also hit a Bush Administration proposal to cut $70 million in emergency funds to help the salmon industry in Oregon and California cope with a closed fishery.

They also plans challenge in court the Bush administration's latest plan for endangered Columbia River salmon.

Despite the prop and the seriousness of the issue, several House aides said few - if any - members of Congress are likely to renew the fight to remove the Snake River dams.

The Clinton administration ruled in 2000 that the four large dams on the Snake River would remain untouched for at least a decade because science does not support tearing them down to restore salmon runs.

"Dam breaching is one step among many others that holds promise for helping restore Snake River stocks," said Clinton's chief environmental advisor George Frampton said at the time.

"Breaching clearly would help those fish. It may or may not prove to be necessary to achieve their recovery. But the science is clear that breaching is not the solution itself for Snake River stocks," he said.

Nor is the Bonneville Power Administration, which generates virtually all of its power from dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers, eager to revisit the issue.

"We continue to hear from a variety of stakeholders that it is important these Snake River dams stay right where they are," BPA spokesman Scott Simms said in an email.

Simms added that salmon populations in the rivers are actually improving and there is greater "support and collaboration in our region for the federal fish recovery plans than ever before."

Simms also added a new dimension -- climate change. Any reduction in hydroelectric power, he said, would mean that the power generated to replace it would most likely come from plants that burn oil or gas or coal, all of which contribute to global warming. That argument would carry serious weight in any discussion over dam removal in Congress, aides to lawmakers said.

"These dams -- producing a vast amount of reliable, emission-free, renewable energy -- are thus more valuable to our region than ever before," he said.

Related Pages:
Columbia River is Thick with Sockeye Salmon by Phil Ferolito, Yakima Herald, 7/3/8
Fish Fuss Focuses on Fallacies by Witt Anderson, Coeur d'Alene Press, 7/3/8

Charles Pope
2-ton Salmon to Beach on Capitol Hill
The Oregonian, June 16, 2008

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