7/19/2001 -- -- JULY 19, 2001
(PORTLAND, ORE.) – Trout Unlimited, the nation’s largest trout and salmon conservation organization, today voiced its support for a bi-partisan bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives calling for planning and actions necessary to recover wild salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest. Once arguably the world’s most prolific salmon producer, the Columbia-Snake river basin is now home to 12 stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act, with others already extinct. U.S. Reps. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Tom Petri (R-Wisc.) are co-sponsors of the bill, called the Salmon Planning Act.
The Salmon Planning Act would authorize funding for a detailed review of measures outlined in the recovery plan for Columbia-Snake river salmon and steelhead stocks released by the federal government last December. The Act seeks to ensure that steps necessary for sustainable salmon and steelhead recovery move forward, and that those steps are taken in concert with planning for reliable, reasonably priced energy in the region and investment in local economies affected by recovery actions.
“This bill would spur into action many of the provisions required by the government’s salmon plan and federal statutes, and would ensure that planning would be mindful of all of the resources and communities involved,” said Steve Moyer, TU Vice President of Conservation Programs. “These invaluable wild salmon stocks have no time left for partisanship or delay, and the risk of losing them forever is now definitely real. We thank Congressman McDermott for his leadership in recognizing that urgency.”
In April, Trout Unlimited released a detailed study projecting functional extinction for wild Snake River spring chinook salmon as soon as 2016 without decisive recovery actions. Trout Unlimited has long maintained – along with the vast majority of scientists studying the issue – that those actions must be comprehensive, addressing all factors in the salmon’s decline, and must include removing four federal dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington. Among the provisions authorized by the Salmon Planning Act would be studies to determine what infrastructure adjustments and economic reinvestments would be necessary under a lower Snake dam removal scenario.
“We’d be the first in line to support a salmon recovery plan that left dams alone if the science said it would work,” said Jeff Curtis, TU Western Conservation Director. “But the science doesn’t say that. It says we must make tough choices and act decisively across the broad range of factors that brought salmon to this point, and it says we have to do that now. Our position is that one of those choices must be removing the four lower Snake dams.”
The future of wild salmon in the Northwest is undeniably linked to the system of federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers, as is the future of the region’s hydroelectric resources and various industries and communities. Wild Snake River salmon populations nosedived, however, following the construction of the four lower Snake dams in the 1960s and 1970s, which provide only a small fraction of the region’s hydropower. Interests dependent on sustainable salmon and dam-related industries have often been pitted against one another as the basin’s river-related resources have struggled.
Last year’s federal salmon plan leaves removal of the lower Snake dams as an option if, at check points in three, five or eight years federal agencies determine that the plan’s other actions are not moving listed salmon and steelhead sufficiently toward recovery. The Act would give the Army Corps of Engineers, which built the lower Snake dams, authority to remove them.
Trout Unlimited cautioned, however, that both the timeframe for actions associated with the federal salmon plan - as well as the Salmon Planning Act requiring its implementation - may still not provide those actions soon enough to recover wild Columbia-Snake salmon and steelhead, especially if a dam removal decision is not made for eight years.
“The Salmon Planning Act goes a long way toward filling some of the gaps in the federal salmon plan and addressing some of the tough questions it ducked, such as a decision on dams,” said Curtis. “This bill provides a critical next step toward lasting, sustainable salmon and steelhead recovery in the Northwest.”
In addition to Reps. McDermott and Petri, Reps. Leach (R-Iowa) Bonior (D-Mich.), Miller (D-Calif.), Sherman (D-Calif.), Napolitano (D-Calif.), Payne (D-N.J.), McKinney (D-Ga.), Borski (D-Pa.), Sawyer (D-Ohio), Guitierrez (D-Ill.), Neal (D-Mass.), Udall (D-N.M), Blagojavich (D-Ill.), Evans (D-Ill.), Andrews (D-N.J.) and Pallone (D-N.J.) have signed on as original co-sponsors.
Steve Moyer, TU Vice President of Conservation Programs: 703.284.9406, c. 703.868.1384
Alan Moore, TU Western Communications Coordinator: 503.827.5700, c. 503.319.2210
Sam Mace, TU Western Outreyoh Coordinator: 503.827.5700