9/8/2000 -- -- Contact: Steve Moyer, Vice President of Conservation Programs, Trout Unlimited: 703-284-9406
Maggie Lockwood, TU Director of Press Relations, Trout Unlimited: 703-284-9425
Alan Moore, Western Communications Coordinator, Trout Unlimited: 503-827-5700
September 8, 2000. Washington, D.C…Trout Unlimited expressed its grave disappointment today with U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton's (R-WA) attempt to derail substantive progress in the fight to save wild Snake River salmon from extinction.
Gorton, chair of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, recently announced plans to attach a rider to the Senate Interior appropriations spending bill for 2001 that would prevent any federal spending on planning or engineering studies of dam removal. The four federal dams on Washington's lower Snake River have been identified by fisheries scientists, Indian tribes, conservation groups, and the citizens of the Pacific Northwest as a primary cause of the decline of wild Snake River stocks, and have been targeted for removal. Gorton has pledged to do anything in his power to save the dams.
"Senator Gorton apparently is willing to try to stop even the planning for the best option--removal of the four lower Snake Dams--for preventing extinction of a species that has survived since the Ice Age," said Steve Moyer, TU's Vice President of Conservation. "Unfortunately, the salmon and the people of the Northwest who depend on them no longer have time for delaying real recovery of these valuable fish."
A study released last year by Trout Unlimited found that, under current conditions, wild Snake River spring/summer chinook salmon could be functionally extinct by 2017. The vast majority of scientific opinion in the region, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northwest state fish and game departments, and countless others support a comprehensive salmon recovery plan that includes breaching the four lower Snake dams.
In July the federal government released a draft plan for Northwest salmon recovery that contained a suite of "anything but dam removal" actions as a last-ditch effort to recover salmon while leaving the lower Snake dams in place. Should those measures fail, the draft plan further calls for a re-examination of dam removal as soon as five or as late as 10 years down the road. Should those non-dam-removal measures fail, or fail to be funded, the result would most likely lead to a faster track toward removing the dams.
"It's a bit puzzling why the Senator, whose mission is to save the lower Snake dams, is taking steps--like this rider --that ultimately may put us on a faster track to dam removal," said Moyer. "By blocking funding to the very provisions in the federal plan designed to keep the pressure off of dams for the salmon recovery burden, Gorton seems to be hurting his own cause. If the non-hydro recovery measures don't pan out, for whatever reason, the only card left to play is the dams."
Salmon advocates further have stressed the critical importance of completing engineering and economic mitigation studies as soon as possible to avoid further fatal delays should a dam removal decision be made. Gorton's rider would ensure and exacerbate such delays, bringing salmon extinction ever-closer.
"We've squandered the luxury of playing politics and 'wait and see' recovery plans," said Moyer, noting that 30 years and billions of dollars spent in attempts to fix the problems created by the dams have the region no closer to a solution than when they began. "If Senator Gorton is serious about salmon recovery, he should listen to the science and support real recovery actions, not try to block them."
Trout Unlimited, the nation's leading coldwater conservation organization, celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 1999. TU's 500 chapters and more than 125,000 members nationwide are committed to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.