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Public Comment Opens On Fate Of Endangered Salmon

Map of the Columbia River Basin with the Snake River highlighted in yellow and the Columbia River in blue
Kmusser derivative work: Shannon1 (CC-BY-SA-3)
Map of the Columbia River Basin with the Snake River highlighted in yellow and the Columbia River in blue.

Montanans can weigh in this week on how to best save the endangered Northwest salmon. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration are revising plans to protect the species.

While no plan is finalized yet, one potential alternative could include breaching four dams on the Lower Snake River. It’s a radical possibility that a judge raised earlier this year after rejecting the latest federal plan to protect the salmon.

Todd True is lead attorney for the environmental group, EarthJustice, one of the plaintiffs challenging the government’s initial proposed plan.

"Certainly you have dams in Montana that are part of this system and you want to be sure they are managed well," says True. "It’s your backyard and it’s your front yard and people in Montana that care about salmon need to make their voices heard."

Critics say these dams are killing endangered salmon that are already feeling the effects of a warming climate.

Those opposing any plan to tear down the dams say they’re needed for irrigation, power generation and barge traffic.

Courts have repeatedly rejected government-issued dam management plans.

Tribal and environmental groups argue those plans have ignored scientific and legal mandates of the Endangered Species Act.

Three listening sessions are scheduled for Montana this week. The first is Tuesday, Nov. 1 at Kalispell’s Red Lion Hotel. Wednesday’s meeting will be held at City Hall in Libby. And Thursday’s session is in Missoula at the Hilton Garden Inn. All sessions run from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Public comment will be accepted through January 17.

Written comments may be submitted at any of the public meetings or mailed to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Attn: CRSO EIS, P.O. Box 2870, Portland, Oregon 97208-2870. Emailed comments should be sent to

When submitting comments, please be aware that your entire comment including your name, address and email will become part of the public record.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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