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Obama administration unveils new salmon restoration plan

Removing four dams on the lower Snake River is described as an “action of last resort” in a new salmon restoration plan submitted by the Obama administration.

While breaching the dams is considered a last resort, the revised plan also directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin studying removal of the Snake River dams. Those dams are the 635-MW Ice Harbor, 810-MW Little Goose, 810-MW Lower Granite, and 810-MW Lower Monumental projects.

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., railed against Obama's revised plan, saying it could lead to further job cuts and higher energy prices. Hastings is the highest ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee.

"The Obama administration has put dam removal back on the table and delivered just what dam removal extremists have been demanding," Hastings said. "No one should be fooled by talk of dam removal as a last resort when the Obama administration is immediately launching studies and plans for such action."

American Rivers, a conservation group for healthy rivers, said the Obama plan is similar to the controversial plan adopted by the Bush administration and does little to help restore salmon populations.

"The new administration has kept the 2008 Bush salmon plan intact, which sets the bar so low that many Columbia and Snake River salmon and steelhead runs will remain at a high risk of extinction," said Michael Garrity, the Washington conservation director for American Rivers.

The new plan was submitted to U.S. District Judge James Redden in Portland. Environmentalists, fishermen and the state of Oregon are suing the federal government over a salmon restoration plan implemented by the Bush administration. The plaintiffs claim salmon populations won’t recover without removing the Snake River dams.

Last month, Judge Redden granted the Obama administration more time to revise the federal salmon restoration plan. The 30-day deadline extension gave regulators a chance to meet with all of the parties in an effort to settle the lawsuit. (HydroWorld 8/12/09)

The Obama administration said the new plan would strengthen mitigation programs aimed at improving salmon survival. What’s more, it would expand research and monitoring, and set specific biological triggers.

Meanwhile, Congress is considering legislation that could lead to the dismantling of the four dams. (HydroWorld 8/10/09)

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