Kempthorne Hires Salmon Policy Consultantby Associated Press
Spokesman Review, September 9, 2000
Biologist known as advocate of barging fish around dams
LEWISTON, Idaho -- Gov. Dirk Kempthorne has hired retired U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fisheries biologist John McKern to help develop the administration's response to the National Marine Fisheries Service's biological opinion and issues assessment on salmon recovery.
Kempthorne spokesman H.D. Palmer said Idaho Department of Fish and Game fisheries biologists also will play a role in preparing the state's testimony, but the governor will set the tone.
"The response is going to come from the governor and represent his views," said Palmer.
Some view the hiring of McKern as an attempt by Kempthorne to counterbalance the views of state biologists who favor breaching the dams to restore ailing runs.
"This is a nasty slap in the face of the Department of Fish and Game that has plenty of their own experts," said Scott Bosse of Idaho Rivers United.
McKern, who worked at the corps' Walla Walla district for his entire 29-year career, is considered an advocate of barging juvenile salmon around the dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers.
"If you had a natural river I would not advocate transporting fish around it, but the Snake and Columbia is not a natural river," he said. "As a fisheries biologist, I'd much prefer to see a natural river and see fish in natural habitat, but that is not what we have now."
McKern and the Fish and Game biologists often have viewed the salmon problem and potential solutions from opposite poles. For instance, department biologists favor breaching the dams as the best biological option for the fish. McKern supports making major system improvements at the dams to help young fish pass more efficiently and safely.
Ed Bowles, anadromous fish manager for Fish and Game, said he and other department biologists would submit comment to the governor's office only on the technical merits of the biological opinion.
"We will say whether or not what they are proposing will get the job done," he said.
Actions called for in the biological opinion include improving salmon habitat in spawning streams and the Columbia River Estuary, reforming hatchery practices and using hatceries as recovery tools.
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