Monday, April 11, 2011

CONFIRMED: Fish Like Water!

Federal agencies commit to ‘spill’ water over dams to help salmon and steelhead during their spring migration this year. But despite scientific support, the government does not make spill a guaranteed, permanent part of the federal salmon plan. 

Out-migrating juvenile Columbia and Snake River salmon and steelhead will get a much-needed boost this spring - thanks to the successful advocacy of the Nez Perce Tribe and the State of Oregon to retain court-ordered levels of water spilled over federal dams during the 2011 spring salmon migration. 

Listen to the Public News Service story here. 
Read the press release from the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition.  

“Spill” has been a key reason for recently improved salmon returns, although numbers are still far below levels needed to sustain healthy salmon populations. Federal dam agencies announced last month that they would provide spill this spring that gets closer to the levels ordered by U.S. District Court Judge James Redden for the last five years.

Earlier in the year, the dam agencies once again sought to cut back court-ordered spill in favor of generating additional hydropower this spring.  Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe led the effort among federal, state, and tribal salmon managers to retain prior spill levels.

“We are thankful that the Nez Perce and Oregon stood up to federal pressure to reduce water spilled past the dams to protect salmon,” said Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association (NSIA).  “What we’ve learned in the last five years is that more spill means more salmon, which means more jobs.”

“For the sixth straight year, water spilled over the federal dams in spring when young salmon are migrating to the ocean will mean higher salmon survival, higher salmon returns, more fishing and more jobs in our coastal communities,” said Joel Kawahara, board member of the Washington Trollers Association.  “Judge Redden first required spring spill for the 2006 migration season, and every year since, his oversight has led the federal government to keep providing it – even though every year, they have looked for ways to reduce spill in order to make more money from generating electricity.”

This decision means that – at least for Spring 2011 – about half of the young Columbia Basin salmon heading to the ocean will travel there in the river, rather than being vacuumed out of the river and barged around the dams.  Prior to 2006, up to 90% of baby salmon were routinely removed from the river and barged by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, interrupting their natural migration and compromising their survival.

For years, salmon advocates have asked the federal government to make spill a permanent, guaranteed part of the federal plan. The Obama Administration’s 2010 Plan curtails spill from court-ordered levels, and allows the federal agencies to halt spill during key times of the migration in the spring and summer.

“The science is clear: salmon do better when the river runs more like a river,” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations (PCFFA).  “We shouldn’t have to fight for spill every year. Salmon and west coast fishing economies deserve reliable protections guided by the best science – and that means continued and increased spill in the spring and summer months."

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