An association of fish biologists in Idaho, US, has overwhelmingly affirmed the need to bypass four lower Snake river dams to restore wild salmon and steelhead. Ted Koch, president-elect of the Idaho Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, said 92% of the 200 members voted for a resolution backing that action. The chapter membership represents a broad range of biologists from federal, state and tribal governments.
More ammunition has been provided to the proponents of dam demolition by a study undertaken by Trout Unlimited, a conservation group, which says that wild chinook salmon in the Snake river system will be nearly extinct by 2017 unless dramatic steps, such as dam removal, are taken to restore access to spawning grounds.
The US Army Corps of Engineers, which is studying the possibility of dam removal, is expected to decide next year whether four Snake River dams — Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite — should be breached to facilitate salmon passage. Several studies indicate that breaching the dams would allow salmon and steelhead trout easier passage to spawning grounds, and would kill fewer juvenile fish during their journey back to the Pacific Ocean.
Other options the Corps is considering include leaving the dams in place and releasing more water from reservoirs to increase river flows, or increasing the use of barging to carry young salmon past the dams. The Corps is expected to make a recommendation to Congress in 2000, which will decide the issue.
Meanwhile, the front runners from both parties for the Year 2000 US Presidential election have already taken positions on the debate over dams in the US northwest. Democratic party contender, Vice President Al Gore, has maintained that he will work for the restoration of the salmon without breaching the dams. Republican front runner, Texas Governor George W Bush, says that Pacific Coast salmon should be protected, but not at the expense of dams on the Snake river.