Upper S.R. Water Users Need Not Fear

Published online: Sep 03, 2004 BOR, NOAA, U.S. Dept. of Commerce
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Irrigators in the upper Snake River system need not have to worry about Pacific Northwest endangered species groups calling for additional water for flow augmentation to move salmon smolts downstream.

In a news conference August 31, a plan was unveiled to further protect Endangered Species Act-listed salmon. It calls for the building of weirs to retrofit each of the dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers that will best fit the free-flow passage of fish.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials pointed out that it credits restoration of hundreds of miles of in-river and estuary salmon habitat, state-of-the-art technological upgrades to hydroelectric dams and other facilities, aggressive predator control, better hatchery and harvest practices, and favorable ocean conditions for boosting returns of salmon over the past four years.

The draft plan is now under going final review. The biological opinion is expected to result in the most significant improvements in the federal dams since the Endangered Species Act was enacted over 30 years ago, said Bob Lohn of the Northwest Regional Administration for NOAA fisheries.

Bonneville Power Administration, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation --three federal agencies "that own and operate" several major hydroelectric dams and other facilities on the Columbia and Snake Rivers--proposed an aggressive set of salmon protection measures.

Lohn said Idaho need not worry about river flow for anything above the Dworshak Dam. This was settled in the recent Columbia River Basin adjutication action.
The Bush Administration has made available federal resources to salmon recovery in prioritized areas, including a request for $100 million in the FY 2005 budget for hundreds of collaborative, locally driven projects.

The new strategy continues these successful efforts and calls for historic federal comitments to improve fish passage at hydroelectric dams. Each dam will be looked at and fitted with the best possible facilities to help fish migration. 

The plan balances the energy and water needs of the Northwest with the commitment to increasing healthy salmon stocks. There are no plans for dam removal in the draft.