Feds Release Plans
by Matt Christensen
Southern Idaho water is safe;
proposals aren't enough for endangered salmon, advocates say
The federal government Wednesday released management plans for dams on the Snake and Columbia Rivers that will promote recovery of endangered salmon and steelhead, according to the agencies that prepared the reports.
NOAA Fisheries says the proposals more aggressively address species recovery than did a previous management plan ruled illegal by U.S. District Judge James Redden, and that Idaho water users won't have to dry up acres to provide more water for salmon recovery.
Salmon advocates say the new plans fall short.
"This isn't any different than the previous plans, in our view," said Bill Sedivy, executive director of Idaho Rivers United. "It's just new bows and ribbons. I think (the judge) will be angry - I think he was really looking for solutions this time around."
The plans call for:
As fish populations have inched closer to extinction, salmon groups have called for the removal of four Lower Snake dams, which they say are the primary reason for fish death. The government doesn't propose removing any dams.
The reports also don't propose increasing the amount of water Idahoans dump into the Snake each year to increase flows and aid salmon migration. Idaho, however, will supply about 487,000 acre feet for salmon under a previously formed agreement. One acre-foot typically meets the demands of two homes for one year.
Some Idaho water users had feared the government could require a significant amount of water to aid salmon under the new proposals - enough to dry up more than a half-million acres, Norm Semanko, executive director of the Idaho Water Users Association, predicted earlier this month.
That's now unlikely, said Diana Cross, a Boise-based federal Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman. "Essentially, there's no change in the Upper Snake system," she said.
But final say is up to Redden, who is likely to review the proposals and make a ruling as early as January.
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