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Fish wars, cont’d.

Post by David Seago on Oct. 31, 2007 at 4:11 pm with No Comments »
October 31, 2007 4:11 pm

If you like your news raw…..The feds came out today with a new plan to protect endangered salmon on the Columbia-Snake River system, hoping to pass muster with a federal judge in Portland who rejected a previous plan.

Is the plan an improvement or not? Depends on who you ask. Environmental groups and fishing interests quickly pronounced the plan no better that the earlier one. They still advocate removing four federally-owned hydro dams on the Snake River.

An alliance of utilities, ports, farmers and business groups says the new proposal is a big improvement and should satsify the judge.

Here is the raw, unfiltered, immediate reaction from both camps. Just read on.

one of the environmental groups calling for removal of four Snake River hydro dams, says the new plan is no better.

From the pro-dam camp:



PORTLAND, Ore., October 31, 2007 – The National Marine Fisheries Service today submitted its current draft salmon plan to the U.S. District Court. The plan offers great hope for the region’s wild salmon and steelhead recovery efforts and addresses the points raised by U.S. District Court Judge Jim Redden, according to Terry Flores, executive director of the Northwest RiverPartners, an alliance of farmers, utilities, ports and businesses that promotes science-based and cost-effective salmon recovery.

"The draft salmon plan issued today is unprecedented in its collaborative development and uses a rigorous science approach never before seen," said Flores, "This is in stark contrast to claims made by the usual outliers that this plan is more of the same."

The new draft is notably different in several critical aspects and it only takes cracking the cover to see that," she continued. "Clearly, the environmental extremists and harvesters had their minds made up long ago. They would not support any plan that rejects the impractical notion of removing dams which provide the Northwest with renewable, carbon-free energy and help our local communities prosper."

The scientific information utilized in the plan looks at each ESA-listed fish stock individually throughout its lifecycle, and provides a scientific roadmap to address the critical bottlenecks in their recovery.

"The new draft takes current scientific information gathered at the watershed level for individual populations and applies it to the problems facing listed fish as they move to and from the Pacific Ocean, something that’s never been done before. The plan also guarantees that substantial funds will be spent on hydrosystem and habitat measures that will help put listed stocks on a path towards recovery," noted Flores.

The new draft plan identifies more than $1.5 billion to be invested in improving fish passage at dams, with survival rates expected to be in the 96-98% range. Significant habitat restoration funds are provided for key tributaries, the critical Lower Columbia estuary and for new predation controls.

"The current science assessment indicates that almost all ESA-listed stocks are rebuilding. It also points out what we’ve known for some time, that hydro operations and habitat restoration are not the whole story. We’ve got to address the harvest and hatchery production issues more thoroughly if we’re going to be successful in our salmon recovery efforts," said Flores.

Flores said the plan remains weak in those areas. Her organization’s hope is that the new science will be used to address all areas of concern in the salmon recovery debate, including the need for serious reform of hatchery practices and harvest of listed salmon and steelhead which are contributing to species declines.

Northwest RiverPartners is a partnership of farmers, electric utilities, ports and businesses joined together to promote science-based, cost effective salmon recovery in the Pacific Northwest. We support responsible policies that will lead to increased salmon runs and continued economic opportunity for the Pacific Northwest.

Comments from a spokesman from Seattle-based American

Rivers, a group that wants the dams removed:

Here are the shortcomings of the new draft Columbia/Snake River biological opinion, as we see them:

1) The draft BiOp fails to sufficiently reduce the percentage of upriver salmon runs killed by the hydrosystem as juveniles. Survival improvements through the hydrosystem appear to be marginal at best. This is an especially big problem for the Snake River runs, as there is little that can be done to improve their spawning and rearing habitat – many of these fish spawn and rear in near-pristine wilderness in central Idaho. (We believe that removing the lower Snake River dams is the best way to reduce hydrosystem mortality, as replacing the dams’ benefits one time would be less disruptive in the long-run on the NW economy than annual implementation of “aggressive non-breach” actions involving extensive reservoir drawdowns, increased “spill,” and acquisition of large amounts of irrigation water for flow augmentation. In developing this draft, NOAA Fisheries refused to study either dam removal or aggressive non-breach actions.)

2) The draft BiOp fails to take the likely regional effects of global warming into account. It assumes that the period between 1980 and 2001, which generally featured below average ocean and river runoff conditions, is a reasonable surrogate for what the effects of climate change are likely to be. No basis is provided for this conclusion. Given what the UW’s Climate Impacts Group and others have been saying, the future climate will likely be warmer (and “worse” for salmon) than late 20th century conditions.

3) It appears that the plan will cost around $700 million per year, despite the fact that it appears highly unlikely to lead to the recovery of Snake River spring/summer chinook and steelhead, which are the fish with the most remaining intact spawning habitat in the Columbia Basin. With the same amount of money, a more effective dam removal or aggressive non-breach plan could be implemented.

4) It fails to explain how minor tweaks to the hydrosystem will allow for the survival, let alone the recovery, of Snake River sockeye. Only four sockeye returned this year (after three last year), and all were taken directly to a life-support hatchery that the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Independent Scientific Review Panel noted in 2006 was becoming less and less viable due to the effects of domestication and a lack of downstream survival improvements.

Taking notice
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