Crapo Goes to Bat for Dworshakby Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, July 2, 2002
Senator proposes talks to lessen pain of summer drawdowns
US. Sen. Mike Crapo is asking federal officials to look for ways to mitigate the repercussions on the Clearwater County economy caused by annual drawdowns of Dworshak Reservoir.
The senator, R-Idaho, sent a letter to officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration and the Northwest Power Planning Council Monday seeking a commitment to work on the problem and hold a meeting at Orofino.
"For the sake of basic fairness, we need to start looking at economic mitigation for the community," he said.
The reservoir is lowered 80 feet every summer when water is flushed from the reservoir to help push juvenile fall chinook toward the ocean and to cool the lower Snake River.
Fall chinook are listed under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species. The act gives agencies such as the National Marine Fisheries Service broad authority to compel other agencies, including the corps, to manage resources such as water to the benefit of threatened species.
A federal salmon recovery strategy adopted in 2000 calls for the annual drawdowns to continue but to leave the lower Snake River dams in place.
The drawdowns come at the worst possible time, according to a University of Idaho study on their effect. They began as the timber industry started its steep slide.
The water level at the reservoir is lowered between July 4 and the end of August, just about the time people would normally flock to the reservoir to fish, boat, camp and swim.
The study says the drawdowns cause a short-term loss of $606,784 to $1,341,238 in sales each year to Clearwater County and the loss of 36 jobs. The county is already reeling from the closing of the Jaype plywood mill in 2000 and the general slowdown in the timber industry. Figures from the Idaho Department of Commerce show the county had a jobless rate of 11.2 percent in May.
"I've called for groups to get together and meet with me in Orofino and discuss the situation and start putting our heads together to find a solution," said Crapo.
Crapo said the federal government promised the people of Clearwater County the reservoir would remain full during the summer months and serve as a recreation mecca. But people stop using the reservoir when the water is lowered about 20 feet or more below full pool.
He said the Endangered Species Act does not include a provision for economic mitigation for actions that cause hardship.
On Monday the reservoir was at an elevation of 1,599, about one foot below full pool, and the corps was passing 13,600 cubic feet of water per second through the dam's powerhouse and over its spillways.
A group of state, federal and tribal fish and water managers will meet by telephone on Wednesday to discuss how this year's drawdowns will be managed. The Nez Perce Tribe, Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are pushing a plan that would keep the reservoir full until mid-July.
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