Letters From the West

Dam managers release latest salmon biop and plan, stay tuned for latest lawsuit

chinook salmon

chinook salmon

The federal dam and salmon managers on the Columbia River released the latest biological opinion today on how they will avoid jeopardizing 13 stocks of salmon and steelhead with their operations.

As expected, they have concluded the surface passage devices they have added to several of the eight dams between Idaho and the Pacific along with the billions of dollars in habitat improvement projects they have funded in tributaries like the Lemhi are doing enough or more than necessary to meet their responsibilities to protect the fish.

Their five-year plan calls for some cutbacks in spilling water over the dams away from hydroelectric turbines to using more barges to haul more fish for a longer period in the late spring. They have no mention of dam breaching and while a NOAA Fisheries official said it remained open to considering a test of spilling even more water over the dams to speed the migration of young salmon through the dams, it was not included in the plan.


So that means the issue will be back in court with sporting groups, fishermen, environmentalists and the Nez Perce tribe expected to challenge the plan that was the result of their last victory in 2011.

I’m working on a column for Monday on the issue.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West