Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Scientists: Remove dams

‘Free-flowing’ river crucial to fish, society says


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

The world's largest organization of fisheries scientists has added its voice to the chorus of conservationists calling for the removal of four dams on the Lower Snake River to speed the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead.

The Western Division of the American Fisheries Society, an organization whose mission is to protect fish habitat nationwide, passed a resolution on Monday that called for the federal government to take a more proactive stance on removing the dams.

"If society at large wishes to restore Snake River salmon, steelhead, Pacific lamprey and white sturgeon to sustainable, fishable levels, then a significant portion of the lower Snake River must be returned to a free-flowing condition," the resolution states.

The dams are under fire because of their role in blocking salmon and steelhead runs and increasing mortality of fish travelling to and from spawning grounds in the Columbia River basin and beyond. But according to the Bonneville Power Association, the dams are necessary to meet demand for electricity throughout the Pacific Northwest in peak seasons.

Bert Bowler, retired Idaho Department of Fish and Game fisheries biologist, said the resolution was the result of intense research on the part of society scientists.

"These professional fisheries scientists have reviewed a robust amount of peer-reviewed science that concludes a free-flowing lower Snake [River] is vital to recovering these most important populations," Bowler stated in a press release.

The resolution also supports development of plans to compensate dam and reservoir users for the loss of the dams if they are removed.

Bill Sedivy, executive director of Boise-based conservation group Idaho Rivers United, said his organization supports the resolution as well.

"[The resolution] highlights a distinct opportunity to build a better future and help our salmon-dependent communities thrive," he said.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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