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Federal Report Does Little to Soothe Fears of NW Salmon Disappearance

Some fishing communities in Idaho rely on salmon to support their local economies. (Nan Palermo/Flickr)
Some fishing communities in Idaho rely on salmon to support their local economies. (Nan Palermo/Flickr)
March 2, 2020

BOISE, Idaho -- Federal agencies have released a report on management plans in the Columbia River basin to save endangered salmon species, rejecting proposals to remove four lower Snake River dams in southeast Washington.

The draft environmental impact statement instead recommends smaller actions, such as increased spill over regional dams. It's little solace to folks in the Northwest who rely on the fish.

Boise high school senior and fishing enthusiast Asa Menlove says if salmon disappear, it will hurt Idaho fishing communities, tribes and the environment. He's disheartened that the report doesn't include any new ideas.

"But I am hopeful that this starts a conversation around the issue in a larger way, getting more people involved, because when it comes right down to it, we really do need to make changes to our policy or the fish will go extinct," Menlove states.

The report cites concerns over the region's power grid in rejecting removal of the dams. The release of the report begins a public comment period that ends on April 13.

The movement to breach the Snake River dams has grown as salmon runs have reached historic lows, in turn starving Puget Sound orcas.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and other leaders in the Northwest have voiced support for the idea.

Tom France, regional director of the National Wildlife Federation, says that's the biggest change in recent years. He says the federation is disappointed in the draft EIS but not surprised because river managers have resisted changing their approach for two decades.

France says the spill will provide a bit of relief for salmon.

"It's better than nothing," he allows. "They have moved in that direction, but given that 20 years of failure in fish restoration efforts, we think more is needed."

France says it's important that all affected parties collaborate on Snake River restoration.

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID