Hastings opposes Banks Lake drawdown

April 15, 2003

By Shirley Wentworth
Tri-City Herald

Kenniwick, Washington - U.S. Rep Doc Hastings, R-Wash., has concluded Banks Lake should not be drawn
down, filing his remarks with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR).

The bureau was ordered by NOAA Fisheries, formerly the National Marine Fisheries Service, to find more water to help fish. Its proposed solution in a draft document was to draw down Banks Lake near Grand Coulee Dam by 10 feet to put an extra 133,600 acre-feet of water in the Columbia River in August and September.

However, Columbia Basin residents, officials and irrigation districts donít find that a feasible solution, fearing that the loss of water could interfere with agricultural and irrigation needs as well as adversely affect Grant Countyís tourism and economy.

NOAA biologists maintain the extra water will help endangered Snake River fall Chinook salmon downstream as they pass McNary Dam on their way to the ocean. They say it also would help juvenile fish passing through the Hanford Reach on the Columbia River.

In his review of BOR's recommendation, Hastings said there is a lack of scientific justification, absence of provable benefits a drawdown would have for fish and the underestimation of the devastating economic effects a
drawdown would have.

Hastings said the 2000 biological opinion from NOAA Fisheries implies that there are specific benefits that should occur with a drawdown. He said the bureauís environmental analysis does not contain any specific scientific information, statistics or facts that could justify a drawdown.

Jim Blanchard, the Bureau of Reclamationís manager of the proposed drawdown, said he has gotten quite a bit of public input on the issue. He said he got lengthy commentary form the regionís three irrigation districts, the Grant County Commission and the Washington State Potato Commission, all of which are opposed to a drawdown. He said there also were a lot of comments from area residents, most of whom are also opposed.

Blanchard said the bureau will have to reevaluate with some of the new information its been given.

The bureau also got comments from NOAA Fisheries and the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission.

The fish commission is in favor of the drawdown, Blanchard said, but thinks more water should be taken.

A final environmental evaluation should be complete by August and decided on a month later.

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