Panel says fish gotta swim

  After a two-year study, a group of scientists says half of the Snake River's endangered salmon and steelhead should be allowed to migrate to the ocean naturally instead of being transported in barges and trucks.

The report, issued by an independent science panel created by Congress, questions whether shipping salmon around dams can save fish from extinction. It rejects a plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration to barge more of the young fish through eight dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers, and it calls on the corps to stop all trucking of fish.

But the best way to reverse the decline of the species is to draw down the reservoirs behind the dams or remove the dams altogether, according to panel member Jack Stanford, a University of Montana professor of ecology.

Stanford resigned from the Independent Scientific Advisory Board in March, saying that studying barging and other fancier strategies "amount(s) to fumbling while Rome burns."

Meanwhile, a coalition of northwestern irrigation groups says that Idaho farmers will lose 425,000 acres of irrigated cropland if salmon are given enough water to reach the sea.

* Rocky Barker

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