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Steelhead. (Photo: NOAA)

Snake River salmon and steelhead recovery plans launched

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Saturday, December 16, 2017, 02:30 (GMT + 9)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service has launched recovery plans for federally protected Snake River chinook salmon and steelhead intended to make sure each species is self-sustaining in the wild.

NOAA informed that the plans include spring and summer chinook, fall chinook and steelhead, The Seattle Times reported.

As part of the initiative, NOAA Fisheries is to develop a biological opinion in late 2018 that will direct how federal agencies operate 14 federal dams in the Columbia River Basin to protect salmon and steelhead.

Further goals include the creation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) by other federal agencies.

NOAA recalls that in 2016 a federal court ruled that the US government has not done enough to improve Northwest salmon runs and ordered the environmental review that is due out in 2021, urging officials to consider removing four big dams on the Snake River.

The 366-page fall chinook plan identifies three main strategies, and chooses to implement the third one that is intended to boost the number of naturally reproducing spawning fish in the Snake River below Idaho Power’s Hells Canyon Complex of hydroelectric dams.

The plan says that young fish released in specific areas will return to those same areas to spawn as adults.

According to officials, that will help boost the numbers of naturally reproducing fish and eventually lead to a self-sustaining population needed to achieve recovery.

“That plan is the most likely and timely path to recovery,” said Rosemary Furfey, Snake River Recovery Coordinator for NOAA.

The Hells Canyon Complex cut off upstream spawning habitat and in the document is listed as a reason for the decline of the fish.

Problems confronting fisheries managers in returning salmon above the dams is that the area is heavily used for agriculture and is too environmentally degraded to support salmon.

“At this time, we recognize that the habitat is not conducive to fish populations and having fish survive,” said Ritchie Graves, Columbia Basin Hydropower Branch chief for NOAA.

Also, Idaho lawmakers previously approved a law preventing the return of listed species to Idaho without the state’s approval.

The 284-page recovery plan for spring and summer chinook and steelhead mainly looks at protecting existing tributary habitat and restoring degraded habitat. Those species travel into the Clearwater River and its tributaries in northern Idaho and the Salmon River and its tributaries in central Idaho. Fish also go into the Grande Ronde River in Oregon.

These plans are the final two recovery plans from NOAA Fisheries for the Columbia River Basin’s 13 endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead runs.


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