NMFS fails to require fish passage for Hells Canyon

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FERC's deadline for all interested parties in the Hells Canyon dams to file their recommendations for terms and conditions in the new license was January 26, 2006. The federal National Marine Fisheries Service - the agency charged with protecting migrating endangered salmon and steelhead - submitted a simple reservation of authority. In other words, the agency did nothing and failed in its responsibility to protect these endangered species.

Other agencies submitted preliminary terms and conditions that required or recommended passage into tributaries or for resident fish, all of which will be revised and resubmitted once FERC has finished its NEPA analysis.

The dams were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, permanently cutting off all migration to 360 miles of habitat on the Snake River mainstem in addition to key tributaries like the Boise River. Coalition members American Rivers and Idaho Rivers United have been working hard for years to have fish passage and sorely-needed water quality fixes on the next Hells Canyon license.

A quick sketch of recent commitments for three large hydropower projects around the Northwest shows that kilowatt-hour for kilowatt-hour, the next Hells Canyon license should be worth $574 million. Presently, the company has proposed a package worth $200 million less than the regional average.

To learn more about Hells Canyon, visit Restore Hells Canyon.