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Device Aims to Help Salmon Traverse Dams

by Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer - November 27, 2004

Critics fear it will only aid power company

This $13 million weir is being fabricated at a Vancouver, Wash., shop and is to be installed at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River next spring. PORTLAND -- A mechanism designed to offer safe passage for migrating salmon is drawing criticism from those who doubt its ability to improve Snake River runs.

The $12.8 million boxlike device made of 1.7 million pounds of steel is the latest technical wizardry devised to protect salmon from death and injury as they traverse a system of eight federal hydropower dams. But critics, including conservation groups and Native American tribes with treaty rights to salmon, say there is reason to doubt that the spillway weirs can improve survival of migrating salmon.

They charge that the weir will help the Bonneville Power Administration generate more power by running its dams harder.

"What this really is is another vehicle for Bonneville to make more money out of the river," said Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.

Yet federal fisheries officials have such confidence in the device that they already are factoring in a higher fish survival rate.

"The current biological opinion depends very much on them," said Bob Lohn, regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency responsible for the recovery of listed salmon stocks.

Operators are moving to outfit all the dams with the structures within 10 years, starting with Ice Harbor Dam.

Associated Press
Device Aims to Help Salmon Traverse Dams
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 27, 2004

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