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More Money Approved
to Help Endangered Sockeye Salmon

by Associated Press
KGW, June 15, 2006

Former Idaho Gov. and Jimmy Carter administration Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus releases a hatchery-reared sockeye salmon at Redfish Lake in the early 1990s. (1994 Idaho Mountain Express - Willy Cook) The Northwest Power and Conservation Council on Wednesday approved spending $2.7 million on hatchery facilities for an endangered run of sockeye salmon in central Idaho despite a recommendation by a scientific panel to allow the fish to become extinct.

"Snake River sockeye are unique and important, and their numbers are critically low," Tom Karier, council chairman, said in a statement. "This investment is important to the effort to preserve and rebuild the species."

The 11-member Independent Science Review Panel earlier recommended that Idaho's run of endangered sockeye salmon to central Idaho's Redfish Lake be allowed to go extinct. The panel cited dams and other downstream factors as reasons for ending a program that is attempting to keep the population viable.

"Not only are these limiting conditions not likely to change, the fish themselves are likely to be changing as a result of present intensive propagation and rearing procedures so that their viability even under restored conditions is increasingly in doubt," the panel wrote.

Because of that, the panel recommended that a captive breeding-and-rearing program designed to keep the fish from going extinct be ended.

The federal Endangered Species Act requires the federal government to work to prevent extinction unless the review panel votes to eliminate the species.

Scientists say that about 35,000 sockeye used to return to Redfish Lake, but only six returned in 2005. Before Wednesday's announcement, $2 million a year was being spent on a hatchery program based in Eagle to raise about 160,000 smolts - young salmon - that are released for their trip to the ocean and back.

The additional money will increase the number of smolts to 260,000. Precautions are taken at the hatchery to prevent inbreeding and genetic disorders, and the fish are released at different ages to spread the risk.

The council reviews salmon funding by the Bonneville Power Administration. The BPA, a regional power marketing agency, sells electricity from Columbia Basin hydroelectric dams and also pays for damage to salmon habitat by spending money on hatcheries.

Associated Press
The Idaho Statesman contributed to this report.
More Money Approved to Help Endangered Sockeye Salmon
KGW, June 15, 2006

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