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Fight for Wild Salmon tomorrow night

Portland, OR Hearing:
Tuesday, Dec. 10, 5:30pm
Northwest Power Planning Council Offices
851 SW Sixth Avenue, Suite 1100

The Northwest Power Planning Council, created by Congress in 1980 to balance the needs of salmon recovery with energy production, is proposing to take actions that would significantly harm endangered wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. They want to reduce the amount of water in the Rivers that help fish migrate to sea, and are instead suggesting that fish don't need water. The Council is holding two hearings in our area to learn what the public thinks about its draft proposal. Please help us make sure the Council does not move forward with its destructive proposal. Please attend one or both of the following hearings and make your voice heard!

Portland, OR Hearing:
Tuesday, Dec. 10, 5:30pm
Northwest Power Planning Council Offices
851 SW Sixth Avenue, Suite 1100

Vancouver, WA Hearing:
Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2003, 5:30pm
Heathman Lodge, 7801 NE GREENWOOD DRIVE

*Read below for background information and talking points.

A Council Proposal Turns Back the Clock on Salmon Recovery

Congress created the Northwest Power Planning Council (Council) in 1980 to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife in the Columbia and Snake River Basin, while seeking to balance environmental and energy needs. A recently released proposal by the Council, however, attempts to tip that balance further away from fish and wildlife by recommending significant reductions in the water available for salmon, water that salmon need.

The Council's "Draft Mainstem Amendments" is an attempt to modify part of their overall Fish and Wildlife Plan so that Columbia and Snake River dams are operated in a way that: 1) reduces water flow for salmon in the crucial spring and summer migration months, and 2) questions the validity and effectiveness of "spill" - a method of helping young salmon get past dams by avoiding deadly turbines. Spill means literally spilling water - and young salmon along with it - over the dams. The Council instead recommends that more salmon and steelhead be siphoned from the river and transported around the dams in barges and trucks, a strategy that has failed for over 25 years.

The "Mainstem Amendments" is just the latest example of the Council's long history of disregarding its salmon obligations. This draft proposal to slash the already-small amount of water Columbia and Snake River salmon get is scientifically unsound, illegal, fiscally wasteful, and contrary to the repeatedly-expressed wisdom and wish of the people of the Northwest. Salmon need water. Here are just a few examples of the proposal's shortcomings:

The Council's recommendations turns back the clock 20 years to recall the old, worn-out debate that salmon don't need water.

A strong flow of water can help young salmon in several ways. Increasing flow improves river speed, helping to "flush" young fish downstream and helps the fish avoid predators. Water flow can also help prevent high water temperatures that can be fatal to both adult and juvenile fish. A strong water flow has also been shown to help increase the health of the Columbia River estuary - where young salmon rest before entering the ocean and where adult salmon rest before heading upstream to spawn.

Federal, state, and tribal biologists, and even the Council's own scientific advisory board, have all confirmed the biological importance of spill and flow. Yet the Council ignores this hard scientific evidence and argues that salmon don't need water.

The State of Oregon submitted a plan to the Council that actually took a step in the right direction and called for the BPA to increase water flows and spill for salmon recovery. The Council rejected the plan in favor of its current draconian draft amendment and has refused to even allow Oregon's proposal to be on the floor for debate during the coming public hearings. Oregon needs to be treated fairly and Oregon's common sense plan should be the Council's recommended position.

The Council's proposal would require barging more fish around the dams, a failed recovery strategy. Putting more fish in barges is also inconsistent with the Council's position that barging should be an "interim" strategy while river conditions are improved.

The Council's proposal violates its legal obligations under the Northwest Power Planning Act by ignoring the best scientific recommendations of the region's federal, state, and tribal fisheries scientists. The Council's proposal reads more like a wish list for electricity utilities and industrial water users than a salmon recovery plan. Moreover, the Council's proposal directly contradicts the federal Salmon Plan, which calls for increases in both water flow increases and "spill" for salmon. The Council's proposed changes would weaken an already anemic federal effort to recover imperiled salmon and steelhead. With it's growing record of failure, and the disregard for the law, one must ask: "exactly who is the Council representing?"

The Power Council is ignoring the many men and women of the Pacific Northwest whose livelihood depends on salmon. Salmon means jobs and without water in the rivers, the Council will be hurting working families.

At nearly every turn, the Council's proposal would eliminate measures to protect and restore wild salmon in favor of ramping up hydroelectric energy generation. But the Council is required by law to assure an adequate "power supply," not an adequate "hydropower supply." There are multitudes of alternative energy sources, including vast untapped potential in the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy to meet the region's future energy needs. These two strategies are affordable and will reduce the pressure on the Columbia and Snake rivers to generate electricity. Currently, however, there is plenty of energy produced to meet our needs, as the Council has recognized. There is no justification for ramping up hydroelectric production at the expense of salmon.

The surest, most cost-effective way for the Council to perform its duty of enhancing fish and wildlife in the Columbia and Snake River basin is to recommend removing the 4 lower Snake River dams. And as the RAND report showed months ago, we can remove those dams without harming the economy or our energy needs. In fact, we could create nearly 15,000 new long-term jobs in the region.

The failure of the Draft Mainstem Amendments to fulfill the Council's mandate to balance the needs of salmon and energy are symptoms of a deeper problem. In fact, the decision whether or not to adopt this proposal is a fundamental test of the Council's ability and credibility to protect salmon. If the Council adopts this proposal on top of its past failures, it will be delivering a message to the people of the Northwest, congress, and the courts that it has abandoned its mandate to protect and restore salmon and will call into question whether the Council can continue to possess the salmon responsibilities given it by Congress.

The Power Council's Draft "Mainstem Amendments" is open to public comment through January 14, 2003.

Please send your comments to*:
Mark Walker, Public Affairs, Northwest Power Planning Council
851 SW 6th Ave., Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97204

* Please make reference to document 2002-16, or "Draft Mainstem Amendments" in your comments

If you have questions, please contact Ryan Hunter at 503-230-0421 ext. 17 or
e-mail him at  ryan@wildsalmon.org

homepage: homepage: http://www.wildsalmon.org
phone: phone: 503-230-0421 x.17