BPA Pumps Cash into Program to Rebuild Fish Runsby Staff
The Idaho Statesman, July 26, 2002
EAGLE -- About $23 million annually over three years is destined to improve habitat, operate hatcheries and conduct research to rebuild migratory fish runs and aid wildlife in Idaho.
Visiting the Eagle Fish Hatchery, where Idaho Fish and Game biologists propagate sockeye and chinook salmon, Bonneville Power Administrator Steve Wright and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne on Wednesday announced the allocations, financed by Bonneville customers.
Kempthorne said the improvements will continue in support of a 2000 federal biological opinion currently in force which requires an “aggressive non-breaching strategy.”
Kempthorne is not a proponent of breaching.
He said the money continues 52 projects and kicks off 12 new ones. They are sponsored by the state, local and federal governments, as well as the Shoshone-Bannock and Nez Perce tribes.
“There are a number of things that are proving successful,” he said. “Idaho thanks the BPA for the renewal of this partnership and commits to using these funds to produce the biggest bang for the buck.”
Most of the projects help sockeye and spring chinook salmon, as well as steelhead trout, all listed under the Endangered Species Act.
They are part of a larger fish and wildlife recovery effort in the Mountain Snake Province, which takes in the Salmon and Clearwater river drainages.
Wright said Bonneville, the Northwest Power Planning Council and Idaho are trying to maintain the salmon recovery effort despite tight financial times.
“The Northwest Power Planning Council recommended projects to BPA for funding based on scientific merit,” Wright said. “Only those projects that produce the greatest biological benefit for the least cost will be funded.”
One effort is the ongoing Lower Red River Meadow Restoration Project near Elk City. It is sponsored by the Idaho County Soil and Water Conservation District and takes in 4.5 miles of river and four land parcels.
Mining, logging and road-building have harmed the Red River, considered an important steelhead and chinook production area. The project will restore the river channel, meadows and streamside vegetation.
The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are involved in several projects, including restoration of the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River and Snake River sockeye research.
Chad Colter, tribal fish and wildlife coordinator, thanked Bonneville for the assistance, but stressed his support of rending the four Snake River dams.
“We're still preaching the breaching, but breaching still isn't the silver bullet for all things,” he said. “We've had a few good years of runs, but we're still concerned about the numbers of wild fish. We would like them to be able to leave and return to spawn, gravel to gravel.”
Funding will go to restore critical fish habitat on the Lemhi, Pahsimeroi and Salmon rivers. Over the years, Lemhi ranchers have been proactive in trying to manage water to help the fish.
“What makes it happen is the cooperation of private land owners,” said John Folsom of Salmon, director of the Upper Salmon River Model Watershed Project. “They never get kudos.”
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