By Shauna McReynolds, spokesperson for the Coalition for Smart Salmon Recovery. As record numbers of salmon and steelhead return to the Columbia River for the fourth straight year, the debate over salmon protection rages on. After a year of analysis and collaboration, NOAA Fisheries, the agency responsible for pro- tecting threatened salmon and steelhead, has drafted a new biological opinion that incorpo- rates the latest scientific find- ings and technological innova- tions. Now it will be up to U.S. District Court Judge James Redden to determine if the plan and its new protections will go forward, or get stuck in court again. This biological opinion calls for the continued investment of around $600 million each year – much of it from the pockets of Northwest electricity ratepay- ers. It is the most extensive – and expensive - effort under the Endangered Species Act anywhere in the United States. The revised plan builds on its predecessor and focuses on specific improvements that will make a real difference for fish. There is an increased empha- sis on predator control and clearer measures for habitat and hatchery operations. The plan promotes new fish guid- ance technologies – called re- movable spillway weirs – that further ease the passage of fish through the system. These “fish slides” reduce the stress on young fish and help keep water quality high. And they have the added benefit of allowing more water to be used for the gener- ation of clean and renewable electricity. With a price tag of around $20 million each, they represent a substantial and on- going investment. Finally, the new plan in- cludes increased emphasis on performance measures to en- sure that the significant re- sources devoted to salmon re- covery actually deliver the in- tended results. Judge Redden wanted more assurance that planned measures were rea- sonably certain to occur. This biological opinion meets that standard. These facts notwithstanding, critics of the revised plan ac- cuse NOAA Fisheries, the Bon- neville Power Administration, the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation of back- tracking. They label improve- ments at dams as “technofixes” designed primarily to increase electrical generation, despite the irrefutable evidence of their benefit to fish. So great is the level of cyni- cism among salmon “advo- cates” that almost no plan de- vised by the federal agencies goes unchallenged, either polit- ically or in court. But lawyers and endless law suits don’t save salmon. Doomsday pro- nouncements don’t help either. The truth is that the runs have improved to record levels, thanks to the measures already being implemented, in concert with good ocean conditions. Judge Redden expressed his concerns about the biologi- cal opinion and received a re- sponse that is both legally and biologically sound. We find our- selves at a pivotal moment on the long, difficult road to salmon recovery. The outstand- ing salmon runs in the last four years demonstrate that the massive investments made for salmon recovery are making a difference. Now is not the time to get bogged down in unneed- ed legal wrangling. An endorse- ment of the new biological opin- ion would foster greater coop- eration among all parties and, most importantly, provide better results for salmon and for citi- zens of the Northwest. For more information about the Coalition for Smart Salmon Recovery, call 503-294-1255 or visit their website at <www.s martsalmonrecovery.org>. Your Painting & Interior Specialist CCB#159353 ‘Tis the season to be jolly, so take a few precautions to keep your holidays happy! • Check your Christmas lights for frayed or exposed wires, loose connections or broken sockets before you put them up. • Make sure your tree is securely anchored in a tree stand and kept well watered. • Don’t use indoor Christmas lights or extension cords outside. • Don’t overload circuits or have too many plugs in one socket. Don’t let that glow in the sky be your home. Play it safe with these pre- cautions. Remember, fire only needs a chance — don’t give it one. • Turn off and unplug all Christmas lights, indoors and out, before going to bed. • Keep matches well out of reach of children. • Use flame-resistant or non-flammable decorations. If they are not labeled flame-resistant, don’t buy them! • Be sure your smoke alarm is working properly. • Have a fire extinguisher in your home at all times. • Don’t place your tree near a fireplace or heater. • Makeshift ladders are the number one cause of injury during the holiday season. Be careful what you stand on. West Oregon Electric Cooperative, Inc.