ASSOCIATED PRESS- The Olympian
KENNEWICK, WA - 4/10/02 -- Gone are the public
hearings where environmentalists wearing salmon costumes called on
Congress to breach dams.
Gone, too, are the expensive advertising campaigns and public
criticism of federal agencies for their handling of the
Northwest's salmon stocks.
But while an energy shortage and a new administration have
pushed salmon from the headlines, environmental campaigns against
Snake River dams are still active.
A substantial part of the effort has shifted to Washington,
D.C., where groups such as Save Our Wild Salmon are patiently
gathering votes in Congress and counting the ways federal salmon
recovery plans are being shortchanged.
"We are very deliberately building national support around
this issue," said Pat Ford, executive director of Save Our
The coalition of sports fishing and conservation groups was
among the most vocal advocates of dam breaching in the late 1990s.
"This work is a little less visible because it's not about
mobilizing large numbers of people," he said.
The effort also appears to have become more defensive after a
mounting string of administrative rulings and court victories for
The campaign is focusing on national energy policy and the role
of hydropower, large Columbia River salmon returns and decisions
by the National Marine Fisheries Service to review the need for
its Endangered Species Act listings.
Breaching the four lower Snake dams to create a free-flowing
river remains low-profile, for now.
American Rivers, for instance, has shifted focus from the
Snake, which the group named the nation's "most
endangered" river in 2000.
The Snake doesn't make this year's recently released list of
"The next big point of reckoning is coming ... in 2003,
and that is when we are going to see whether or not the nonbreach
plan is being implemented," said Rob Masonis, a lawyer for
American Rivers in Seattle.
"What we are trying to do collectively in the
environmental community is to make sure that the federal
government is accountable for what it proposed."
At the Sierra Club, leaders are blending dam breaching efforts
with a long-running campaign to protect lands explored by Lewis
Along with protection of grizzly habitat and roadless areas,
Snake dam removal is on the organization's project list.
Within the next month, the Sierra Club is promising two major
reports on river issues.
It's also pitching the Salmon Planning Act introduced by Rep.
Jim McDermott, D-Wash., as a backup plan in case current recovery
Opponents immediately labeled it a dam-breaching bill.
The big push, however, will be next year, when the federal
government will have to show how well its salmon recovery programs
"We will by then have documented fairly thoroughly a
failure to implement" salmon protections, Ford said. "We
will certainly do something to make that a very visible