River News for the Week of September 8, 2000
NW SALMON: U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) are planning to introduce a bill in Congress to restore critical wildlife habitat in the Columbia and Tillamook estuaries. The legislation would create the Northwest Coastal Estuary Program-a multi-year restoration program for the two areas, designed to carry out a variety of existing habitat restoration plans. Federal agencies and the region's four governors have specifically called for the implementation of the Columbia River estuary management plan as vital piece of the salmon recovery puzzle. A number of conservation and industry groups have also joined together in support of this legislation, including American Rivers, the Port of Portland, and the Pacific Waterways Association. Recognition of the region-wide significance of the estuaries (where rivers meet the sea) has prompted this convergence of interests--as well as offering critical habitat to endangered salmon and steelhead, they shelter over 200,000 wintering waterfowl and shorebirds. Since 1850 both estuaries have lost over 70% of their historical wetland and riparian (shoreline) habitat, primarily due to the construction of agricultural levees and floodplain development. The Columbia River and its estuary have also been damaged by channelization and dredging for navigation.
Specifically, the legislation would authorize and direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out habitat restoration portions of management plans recently completed by the Lower Columbia River Estuary Program and the Tillamook Bay Estuary Project. The Army Corps would be authorized to spend up to $175 million towards the restoration. The legislation calls for appropriations over a ten-year period. (American Rivers press release 9/7)
Also in Washington, Senate Appropriations Interior subcommittee Chairman Slade Gorton (R-WA) has pledged to secure funding that will save more than 1 million hatchery salmon in northcentral Washington. In a letter to Will Stelle, Northwest regional director of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Gorton spoke of his goal to secure $184,000 for a project that would use a marking system to distinguish hatchery-raised salmon from wild salmon. The marking would enable fishermen to identify and release endangered spring chinook. The funding sought by Gorton would save nearly 1.5 million salmon eggs which were going to be destroyed due to insufficient funds for the marking project, reports the Oregonian (9/7).
Finally, Washington state gubernatorial candidate John Carlson said this week that the way to save Washington's dwindling salmon stocks is to shut down most commercial salmon fishing, reports the Seattle Post Intelligencer (9/8). Governor Gary Locke as well as commercial and Indian fishermen consider the idea "myopic," and say that when tribes halted commercial harvests on some rivers 25 years ago, the stocks continued to decline. Carlson's salmon-recovery plan includes leaving in place the four dams on the Snake River, but bans nets used by virtually all commercial and tribal fisheries. According to the Intelligencer, Carlson also said that "it is hypocritical for the state to tell property owners they cannot farm or build alongside salmon streams in order to help fish, and then allow the same fish to be caught and eaten."
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OREGON SALMON: Following its 18-month study, the Forest Practices Advisory Committee on Salmon and Watersheds has recommended improved fish passages and logging roads to help save salmon from extinction, as well as bring state logging rules in compliance with Oregon's salmon recovery efforts. The Department of Forestry must now adopt the proposals before the recommendations would be included in the state Forest Practices Act, a process that could take 18 months. As reports the AP (9/7), "the panel recommended improving fish passages through road culverts and other obstacles, making logging roads less likely to dump damaging sediment in streams, reducing the likelihood of landslides and improving riparian zones along rivers and streams." Also included is the recommendation to widen the no-cut zones to 50 feet next to large streams, 30 feet for most other fish-bearing streams and 25 feet for most other perennial streams, while imposing a complicated formula to leave more large trees in the outer portion of the buffer, reports the AP.
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WEST VIRGINIA WATERS: The coal company A.T. Massey has agreed to pay nearly $26,000 in fines to settle complaints that it polluted streams in Boone and Raleigh counties with tainted preparation plant water, reports the Charleston Gazette (9/7). Two subsidiaries of the company, Elk Run Coal Co. and Goals Coal Co., will be paying the fines that were reduced by the EPA by about 20 percent. Elk Run will pay $16,000 and Goals Coal will pay $9,900. The EPA has not offered an explanation for the reduction of fines. The fines stem from the illegal discharging of blackwater from their operations of the two companies into nearby streams.
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SACRAMENTO AND AMERICAN RIVERS: The city of Sacramento in California has decided to spend $22 million on fish screens for intake piers in the Sacramento and American rivers to protect endangered salmon. Though officials say they have never known of a fish being sucked through the river intake feeding the city's water supply, the screens will guard against the possibility. As reports the Sacramento Bee (95), the money is enough to "pump, treat and deliver nearly a year's worth of water for all 406,000 residents." Since two kinds of Sacramento River salmon are now on the federal list of threatened and endangered species, the city has no choice but to install the screens, to avoid the potential of federal officials ordering the city to reduce its take of river water or canceling any increase it has planned for growth. Sacramento residents will begin this month paying for fish protection by a 6 percent increase in their water bills.
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MISSOURI RIVER: Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond this week "prevailed in his drive to block the Army Corps of Engineers from proceeding with plans to increase the river's flow in the spring and decrease it in the summer," reports the St. Louis Post Dispatch (9/8). Bond amended an appropriations bill to prevent the corps from spending money next year on its revised master manual if it involves changes in the Missouri River's flow, and led forces to defeat the efforts by senators from upstream states to champion an amendment to restore the money by a 52-45 vote. Bond has argued that changing current river levels would mean more flooding in Missouri and other states downstream. However, the White House has promised to veto any law incorporating the Bond language, and plans to begin restoring the Missouri river by changing dam operations. As reports the Dispatch, "Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Bond's main antagonist, said that Bond's wording threatened the $22.5 billion water resources spending bill to which Bond attached his prohibition."
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ALASKA SALMON: The Marine Stewardship Council this week designated Alaska's salmon fishery to be the first in the United States deemed sustainable. Overfishing had severely depleted the state's salmon population by 1959, but since that time, rebuilding healthy salmon stocks has been a priority in Alaska, with the state commercial salmon catch reaching 214 million fish. As reports ENN (9/7), the Council has consequently determined that Alaska salmon will become the first U.S. fishery to be certified as sustainable. The certification guarantees that the seafood that has not been overfished or harvested in ways that harm the ocean ecosystem. Alaska state officials hope the certification will boost sales of their products in Europe where "eco-labels" carry more weight than they do in the United States.
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KOOTENAI RIVER: U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti has ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fast-track their efforts to map critical habitat for the Kootenai River's white sturgeon, and release a final habitat proposal by the end of the year. As reports the Spokesman Review (9/8), the federal government was supposed to designate the habitat critical for survival and recovery for sturgeon by 1995, which makes their habitat proposal at least 5 years late. The suit was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity in June 1999, accusing the government of violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to map habitat needs for sturgeon and three other species. The order by the judge requires a draft habitat designation within 60 days and a final proposal in 120 days.
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JOB OPPORTUNITY: American Rivers is seeking a Associate Director
Communications for our DC headquarters, to work closely with the Vice
President for Strategic Communications. Duties would include working
with media team and conservation staff to coordinate national and
regional media campaigns publicizing river conservation, pitching
reporters, TV producers, and newspaper editorial writers on stories
involving rivers, writing and editing press materials, a quarterly
newsletter, the annual Most Endangered Rivers report, and promotional
materials, handling logistics of press events, and esponding to media
requests. Candidates should have 1-3 years experience in public
relations/communications/media field, strong writing, editing, and
research skills along with ability to juggle multiple projects in fast
paced environment, and an interest in conservation. Please send resume,
cover letter and writing sample to Director of Administration, attn:
press hire, American Rivers, 1025 Vermont Ave NW, suite 720. Washington,
DC 20005 or email: wsisson at amrivers_org. No Phone Calls Please.
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