Saving the Salmonby Staff
Washington Post, July 21, 2000
THE CLINTON administration's plan to save endangered salmon in the Pacific Northwest, which began to emerge on Wednesday, offers a broad series of measures to restore the dwindling fish in the Columbia and Snake rivers but defers a controversial decision on breaching four dams. Instead the plan advocates holding the breaching option open while waiting to see whether the other steps can save the fish. A future administration will make the final call five to eight years down the road.
Some environmentalists, who say breaching offers the best hope of saving Snake River salmon, are disappointed. Opponents of dam removal are angered because the plan keeps the breaching option open. Both sides, however, should step back and carefully examine the details of the administration's proposal as they are made public in the coming weeks.
It would be some years before the dams could be breached even if a decision were made today, so there is room for this two-track approach to work. But its viability depends on the strength of the broader plan and the amount of money ultimately put into the effort. Many of the other options for helping the salmon will be just as controversial and difficult to put into place locally as the dam breaching has been. Federal support for efforts like irrigation reform and habitat restoration will be critical to gaining local backing. Likewise, technical planning for dam removal will cost money, and there is powerful opposition on the Hill to such actions. But if the planning is held up or blocked, that poses a serious problem. It will be too late for the fish if, eight years down the road, an administration wants to breach the dams and then needs six more years to get ready.
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