Idaho Gov. Phil Batt has told U.S. Sen. Larry Craig and Rep. Helen Chenoweth bold action is needed to head off dwindling salmon and steelhead runs from extinction.
“One thing is clear, our salmon and steelhead have not turned the corner toward recovery, and something must be done,” he wrote in a letter dated last Wednesday to the two Republican members of Congress.
“We cannot keep dancing around the fact that our anadromous fish have reached a critical stage. If we do not take some bold action, these great fish will likely become extinct, and we will have lost a priceless economic and historical resource.”
Batt said he intends to continue to lead an active, solution-oriented approach to solving the problem.
Chenoweth and Craig are worried that the state’s recent comments about a potential listing of the steelhead seem to shift the balance toward in-river migration of salmon and steelhead before the scientific evidence is in.
They contend the state should stick to a “spread-the-risk strategy” to balance the percentage of juvenile fish left to migrate in the Snake River with those placed in barges for transportation around the dams.
Craig and Chenoweth say past studies have shown steelhead benefit even more than salmon from barging. Batt said he agrees barging has not been proven to be a total failure.
“There is, however, little or no evidence that barging has moved us on to a path of recovery,” he wrote in his letter.
Batt said scientific studies have recommended “a more normative river configuration” for salmon and steelhead recovery. That means allowing the system to function more like a natural river, while still using it for transportation, flood control and irrigation, he said.
“But before we radically alter the dams, we must accurately evaluate the costs and probable benefits,” Batt said.
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