Feds Vow to Solve Salmon Issuesby Steven Johnson
Electric Co-op Today, November 23, 2011
Federal agencies have told a judge overseeing salmon recovery plans for the Pacific Northwest that they plan to address his concerns by working closely with states and tribes to improve habitat conditions for endangered fish.
"This is important work, and we have made it our highest priority," said Dave Ponganis, director of programs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We will maintain a focus on implementation in the next two years as we work with local experts to respond to the court's order."
The Corps and other agencies outlined their plans in a Nov. 16 brief filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon. Judge James Redden said in August that he wants federal officials to be more specific about their proposed salmon habitat restoration activities through 2018, as part of $1 billion in annual expenditures on fish and wildlife programs.
The Corps, Bonneville Power Administration, and the Bureau of Reclamation are working with experts in the Columbia River Basin to identify opportunities to improve the habitat for fish.
"We will be using the same collaboration approach we used with the existing biological opinion," said Will Stelle, regional director of NOAA Fisheries. "We will work issues through the regional workgroup of states and tribes that has been overseeing the implementation and share information with all the parties. The judge's order directed us to work with the sovereigns."
In a statement, Ponganis said initial results are promising, as improvements to dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers are showing a 95 to 99 percent survival rate for young Chinook and steelhead. "As a result, salmon are coming back to places they haven't been seen for decades," he said.
Utilities are closely monitoring development because fish and wildlife costs account for about one-third of BPA's wholesale power costs to co-ops, public utility districts, and municipal systems.
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