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Mixed Opinions on Fish Migration Ruling

Photo courtesy of Andrew Moor via Flickr

Opinions are mixed on a federal judge’s ruling concerning water spilled over Columbia and Snake River dams to help fish migration.

This week, U.S. district Judge Michael Simon ruled the Army Corps of Engineers must spill more water next year at 8 dams to help juvenile fish migrate downstream.

Fish advocate Sam Mace of the group Save Our Wild Salmon was encouraged by the ruling. Mace said, “We were encouraged by the judge that this would provide some interim measures for salmon and steelhead while the decision is still being made on whether these dams will still be here in the future, as the environmental process the NEPA process is going on right now”

The judge in the case last year told the government that it should at least consider whether to breach the four lower Snake River dams to save endangered fish.

Terry Florez is a spokeswoman for the group Northwest River Partners, which represents power users and industry groups. She fears increasing the spill too much will actually threaten survival of the young fish.  Florez says, “Our concern is this judge has bought into this “more spill is always better”, and we don’t believe the science shows that at all.  It can be a helpful tool, but it add a lot of gas to the water column, and young fish can experience the bends, like scuba divers, if they are exposed to too much gas.”

The judge did recommend that the government spend the next year fine-tuning the amount of water to be spilled to ensure fish are safe.

Florez says the salmon restoration program on the Columbia and Snake rivers is already the most comprehensive, and expensive program in the country. It costs about 700 million dollars per year, which is paid by electric customers.