BOISE, IDAHO — It's the fifth meeting of the Governor's Working Group on Idaho salmon. Conservationists, tribal leaders and river users have until December of next year to make recommendations to Governor Little on how to restore Idaho's wild salmon and steelhead.
"We're talking a lot about salmon, dams, habitat, and agriculture," said Justin Hayes of the Idaho Conservation League. "All of these are going to have to come together to find solutions and recommendations. So it's just important that we have open dialogue about all of the issues."
Among salmon advocates, the operation of eight hydroelectric dams is at the top of that list. Bonneville Power who operates those dams, admits that changes must be made to provide sustainable salmon runs, and supply affordable energy to the Northwest.
"Bonneville cannot stay the same as it was before in the face of all the changes facing the industry and the economies in particular of the northwest," said Marcus Harris of Bonneville Power.
At this meeting budget officer Marcus Harris presented information about Bonneville's financial status. But when pressed about the viability of the four dams on the Lower Snake River, he did not have the information that some salmon advocates want.
"I find it troubling," said Hayes. "I don't know how the region can have an honest discussion about the things that are harming our fish if we can't talk about the costs and the revenues associated with individual projects."
The group also discussed the impacts of predators and tribal fishing rights and fishery management.
With so many competing interests, keeping the runs alive is extremely challenging, but through more dialogue many are confident these meetings will make a difference.
"I'm very hopeful that when we come together and talk about what we hope to accomplish, our concerns, the needs of the communities that we represent, and the needs of the fish, I think we're going to come up with some good suggestions and recommendations for the governor," said Hayes "And I'm pretty excited to see how that goes."