Governors agree on ways to protect salmon

Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2000

BOISE, Idaho -- Four governors on Tuesday unveiled a plan to help boost the recovery of salmon and steelhead populations in the Northwest.

But sport fishermen and environmentalists said a vital element is missing from the document -- support for breaching dams along the salmon migration route from Idaho to the ocean, on the lower Snake River.

The plan calls for improving habitat, attacking predators like birds and marine animals, limiting commercial and sport fishing, and refocusing some hatchery production toward naturally spawning fish.

Also recommended is modifying hydropower operations -- but only without jeopardizing the region's electric supply.

The plan was released by Govs. Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, Montana's Marc Racicot, Oregon's John Kitzhaber and Washington's Gary Locke. In two days, federal fishery managers are scheduled to unveil recommendations on how hydropower dams should be operated to foster fish recovery.

Locke estimated the plan could cost ``hundreds of millions,'' but added Bonneville Power Administration ratepayers already are chipping in huge sums.

``It will need a substantially increased commitment from the federal treasury,'' he said.

The governors urged state, federal and tribal officials to accept the plan by January.

Sportsmen's groups and environmentalists continued to maintain that breaching dams remains the best solution. The Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission has said it also supports breaching.

Scott Bosse of Idaho Rivers United said environmentalists would sue the government if plans proceed without addressing the hydropower system.

But Bruce Lovelin of the Columbia River Alliance industry group applauded the plan.

``Our Northwest governors believe salmon recovery can continue without breaching dams,'' he said. ``This should move the region and federal officials to a more effective and rational recovery effort.''

White House officials have said a decision to breach the dams will not be addressed for at least eight years and the soonest the dams could be removed would be 10 years.



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