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Suit filed over Pacific Northwest salmon plan Friday, 4 May 2001 15:04 (ET)
Suit filed over Pacific Northwest salmon plan
PORTLAND, Ore., May 4 (UPI) -- A new wrinkle has been added to the Western electricity crunch in the form of a lawsuit filed by a coalition of environmental and sport-fishing groups.
The groups allege that the federal government's plan to help Pacific Northwest salmon populations is actually driving the fish closer to extinction.
The suit filed late Thursday in Portland, Ore., said the government's attempt to preserve the salmon in the Snake and Columbia rivers was "weak on science," inadequately funded and was putting the generation of hydroelectric power ahead of the salmon's survival.
"Federal agencies managing the Columbia and Snake rivers should be steering us out of this mess, instead they are making it worse," Tim Stearns, Northwest regional director of the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement Friday. "Their new salmon plan is weak on science and full of risk for salmon."
The completion of the salmon's migration depends a lot on the amount of water flowing downstream. The continuing drought in the Pacific Northwest has reduced the flow and forced a greater reliance on the release of water through federal dam spillways.
Spillways, however, are not connected to the hydroelectric turbines that produce power for the region. Fish caught in the turbines have little chance of survival, so releasing more water through the spillways means less water for power generation over the course of the summer.
The Bonneville Power Administration canceled plans to release additional water to raise the water levels that would help young salmon migrate to the sea.
"The Northwest faces one of the driest years in over 70 years of records," Bonneville's acting administrator, Steve Wright, said at the time. "Spilling water now will worsen the shortage and drive electricity prices up even higher."
The 13 organizations in the coalition that filed the lawsuit contend, however, that Bonneville could find additional sources of water by buying water rights. They also say not enough is being done for conservation.
"Drought and an energy shortage don't justify abandoning bare-bones salmon protections," said Bill Arthur of the Sierra Club.
Bonneville had immediate comment on the lawsuit. But officials have said that the agency this spring would not be able to meet the demand for electricity on its own and would likely have to buy more power on the high-priced spot market.
-- Helium (HeliumAvid@yahoo.com), May 05, 2001