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US Government Wants More Protection for Salmon

US - President Obama's administration has set a tough plan to protect wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest.

Calling it an 'insurance policy' for salmon, the Obama administration has offered up a tougher conservation plan for the Pacific Northwest that includes monitoring for climate change and possible dam removal, according to The World.

A top official also said the original plan drafted during the previous Bush administration and completed last year was 'biologically and legally sound' when combined with measures added by the Obama administration.

Jane Lubchenco, chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the plan submitted on 15 Spetember to a federal judge for approval sets specific triggers for taking quick action to save salmon if conditions change in the Columbia River Basin.

"The key to this insurance plan are contingency measures that will be implemented in case of a significant decline in fish abundance," Ms Lubchenco said.

One of those contingency measures would be possible removal of four lower Snake River dams, a measure that she called a "last resort".

The plan – called a 'biological opinion' – drew immediate criticism from both sides of the long debate over the Columbia and other Northwest rivers that provide fish, hydroelectricity, irrigation and cargo routes.

"The Obama administration has put dam removal back on the table and delivered just what dam removal extremists have been demanding," said US Representative Doc Hastings (R-Wash).

But Nicole Cordan, legal and policy director of the Save Our Wild Salmon coalition, said the revised Obama administration plan simply repeats what the coalition believes are the same mistakes made by the Bush administration.

She said: "They adopted Bush-era science and politics. Again, we've had eight years of these same actions and same kind of work, and what we're seeing is a whole lot of money spent and not a whole lot of impact happening on the ground."

US District Judge, James Redden, rejected two earlier plans in 2003 and 2005, threatening at one point to take control of salmon recovery efforts. The new plan would immediately boost mitigation programmes to help salmon survival, expand research and monitoring, and set specific biological 'triggers' for even stronger measures, if numbers of threatened fish fail to reach certain benchmarks.

According to The World, the Obama administration said it will speed up things such as habitat improvement projects because of concerns about uncertainties such as the effect of climate change.

The revised plan also directs the US Army Corps of Engineers to begin studying removal of the Snake River dams in the southeast corner of in Washington state but warned it was "viewed as an action of last resort". No action would be taken before 2013 at the earliest.

The biological opinion is required by the federal Endangered Species Act to protect salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin.

It was prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the three federal agencies involved in operating dams, the Army Corps, the Bonneville Power Administration and the US Bureau of Reclamation.

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