Hastings opposes Banks Lake drawdown
April 15, 2003
By Shirley Wentworth
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
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
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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