Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stanley leaders back salmon study

Bill before Congress would launch study of various recovery options, including dam removal

Express Staff Writer

Noting that wild salmon and steelhead runs are an essential part of the "economic, natural, and traditional values of central Idaho," the Stanley City Council has voted to support a congressional bill authorizing a comprehensive study on how to improve survival rates for the iconic fish.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, June 13, the council passed a resolution endorsing the Salmon Economic Analysis and Planning Act, a bill now before Congress. The legislation would require an economic and scientific analysis of salmon recovery options in the Columbia River Basin, which includes almost all Idaho rivers.

Prior to the vote, Stanley officials invited community residents to give their views on salmon and steelhead recovery. Everyone in the crowd backed the proposed resolution, Stanley City Councilwoman Laurii Gadwa said.

"We basically asked the public what do you want us to do?" Gadwa said.

While not everyone in the crowd expressed the same reasons for their concerns, all stated that wild salmon and steelhead are critical to Stanley's future, she said.

One aspect of the proposed study for which city residents expressed appreciation is its focus on a broad range of alternatives to address the decrease in fish stocks, Gadwa said.

"It's an unbiased study, which I think is very important," she said.

In its resolution, the council noted that local sport fishing for salmon has been suspended in the Stanley area since 1978. It also states that the limiting factor affecting recovery of wild salmon in the region isn't local river habitat, but rather the degraded condition of downriver habitat and migratory conditions.

As written, the Salmon Economic Analysis and Planning Act would direct the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to seek a scientific analysis of federal efforts to restore salmon and steelhead listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., would initiate an examination of the operation of the four reservoirs and dams on the lower Snake River in Washington. All Idaho salmon and steelhead must pass those impediments on their way downstream as smolts and upstream as spawning adults.

The study would also focus on the potential economic impacts of partially removing the four federal dams on the lower Snake River.

The legislation has 62 cosponsors, and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans. Neither of Idaho's two representatives, Mike Simpson and Bill Sali, are co-sponsors.

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