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Report: New Culprit on the Hook for Salmon Recovery

PHOTO: Rail cars loaded with coal.
PHOTO: Rail cars loaded with coal.
August 1, 2012

BOISE, Idaho - Supplying coal to Asia could be the next threat to endangered Idaho salmon and steelhead, according to a new report assessing impacts of ramped-up coal train traffic as the industry plans to boost exports through West Coast terminals.

Coal trains would travel through Idaho and along rivers and streams in Oregon and Washington, and the report finds that coal dust from those trains could hurt fish.

Russell Bassett, executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, says the trains could undermine progress.

"A lot of time, effort and money is going into recovering these fish species. They are of such economic and ecosystem importance, and regional icons to us here."

Preventing harm to fish up front is important, Bassett says, since trying to mitigate damage to fish after the fact is expensive and, at times, only marginally successful.

"So, at the very least, we'd definitely like to see more study. We'd like to have an environmental impact assessment done to determine what the effect of these rails cars would be to salmon and steelhead."

Bassett's organization released the report in conjunction with the National Wildlife Federation. The report also notes potential threats to human health and to agricultural operations - and not only because of coal dust. Diesel emissions and noise were also assessed.

The report, "The True Cost of Coal," is online at nwf.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID