Damning report on dams

  Spawning chinook salmon would be better off if they didn't have to swim the gantlet of four dams on Idaho's Snake River, says a panel of independent scientists. By testing that hypothesis with a computer model, the scientists found threatened spring and summer chinook salmon would have a greater than 80 percent chance of restoration if the dams were breached. The computer model found that continuing to barge salmon around the dams resulted in a 50 percent chance of recovery. Only some 32,000 wild salmon remain in the Snake River Basin where there once were 1 million. The scientists' report is "slicker than a watermelon seed," says Jeff Curtis of the environmental group Trout Unlimited. "The science matches common sense." Not everyone was as enthusiastic. Bruce Lovelin, executive director of a barge-industry coalition, said he was stunned, since "everything we've been hearing was unsure if dam breaching would really work." Lovelin says scientific questions still need to be asked. A decision is coming soon: By the end of 1999, the National Marine Fisheries Service will choose whether to restore the Snake River or continue barging salmon.

For a copy of the scientific report, based on the computer model, "Plan for Analyzing and Testing Hypothesis," write to David R. Marmorek, ESSA Technologies LTD, 1765 W 8th Ave., Suite 300, Vancouver, BC N6J5C6 or www.bpa.gov/Environment/PATH.

* Rebecca Clarren

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