A Senate panel on Tuesday approved $250,000 to study a proposal for lowering the reservoir behind the John Day Dam to increase Columbia River salmon runs.
The money was inserted into the 1998 energy and water appropriations bill at the request of Sen. Slade Gorton. The action by the Senate Appropriations Committee’s energy and water subcommittee requires the Army Corps of Engineers to submit its conclusions the panel in January.
Gorton said in a press release that the spending bill also includes nearly $18 million requested by the White House for the Yakima River enhancement project for water conservation and storage improvements.
About $8.98 million would go for planning and construction and another $8.8 million for operations and maintenance.
Another provision added to the legislation encourages better coordination between the state and federal governments in the operation of fish hatcheries. Gorton said he wants to make sure that federal and state hatcheries are not duplicating efforts to rebuild the runs of endangered Columbia River salmon stocks.
The John Day reservoir drawdown has been hotly controversial, particularly among farming operations worried that lowering the reservoir could leave intake pipes for irrigation systems above the waterline.
Earlier this year, the Corps appealed to Congress for permission to redirect $1.5 million for drawdown studies. That request was denied by leaders of the appropriations panel, who said they wanted more information on how the studies were going to be conducted.
The appropriations panel leaders - Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. - said in a June letter to the Corps that they would permit it to use $250,000 to scope out how the studies would be performed. That study report was due this month.
Under Gorton’s proposal, however, the report now will not be due until 90 days after the legislation takes effect. The 1998 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Under terms of the panel’s requirements, the Corps must look at how the proposed drawdown, which would occur in stages, would affect virtually all water uses including irrigation, flood control, fisheries, power production, municipal water supplies and recreation.
“If the Army Corps of Engineers abides by this criteria for their proposed study, the committee will permit the Corps to conduct the study,” Gorton said in a prepared statement.
“I believe that the purpose of this study is beneficial,” he said. “By studying all of the impacts the proposed drawdown would have on all river uses, it will help provide the region with the information that it needs to make a well-informed decision.”
The committee directive requires that the public is involved in the study process and that particular emphasis be placed on the communities adjacent to the John Day reservoir and salmon fishing communities in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Scripps-McClatchy Western Service
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