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Climate Change Spurs Talk of Fish Restoration

Restoring historical salmon runs above two big dams on the upper Columbia River has long been a dream for Indian tribes and conservationists. But there are some new hints the dream MIGHT become reality.

A couple of landmark changes in thinking about salmon restoration could eventually lead to significant alterations at the Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams. First, US and Canadian negotiators may - for the first time - include ecosystem issues in a new Columbia River  treaty between the two nations. The current 1964 treaty covers only hydropower generation and flooding mitigation steps.

Second, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believes that salmon can be reintroduced in upper river basins in Washington, Oregon and California.

Will Stelle, the northwest regional director of NOAA Fisheries, made no promises, but he said the agency will investigate returning Salmon to the Upper Klamath in Oregon, the upper Sacramento River in California and the upper Columbia in Washington and BC.

He said climate change will force the issue. As Stelle put it - "we have got to go upstream, and we have got to get fish upstream because that is going to be their refuge in a changing world."

There are no specific plans yet to reintroduce salmon in the upper basins. But there's been talk of building a seven-mile long fish ladder at Grand Coulee dam.

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