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Editorial: Chinook listing would be new blow to region

Redding Record Searchlight April 15, 2011
It would be premature to make too much of the National Marine Fisheries Service's review of whether the Klamath and Trinity rivers' chinook salmon deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Environmental activists ask to have species listed species as threatened or endangered almost weekly. That federal fisheries managers would take a petition seriously enough to study only means they're doing their job. After all, nobody can honestly argue that California's salmon populations are robust, despite a recent rebound.

Still, anyone who cares about the north state's economy has to hope the answer, at the end of the federal review, is "No." The last thing the region needs is yet another endangered fish whose care dominates decision-making.

A threatened or endangered listing would further crimp logging, restrict water diversions for farm irrigation, and feed an endless series of lawsuits like those the Klamath Basin and Sacramento River already see over coho salmon, Sacramento chinook, suckers, steelhead, delta smelt and green sturgeon.

For good or ill, a federal listing would all but certainly raise pressure to tear out the Klamath River hydroelectric dams, a massive and controversial project that the Interior Department is already studying. And it would lend weight to a push by the Hoopa Valley Tribe and Humboldt County to further reduce the Central Valley Project's diversions from the Trinity River across the divide into Whiskeytown Lake and the Sacramento Basin which would be great for the river, but also cut water supplies (not to worry, we'll never have a drought, right?) and electricity production, even as power bills are already rising.

You can love salmon to eat, to catch, to simply admire spawning in river gravel from a convenient bridge and want to see the Northwest's emblematic fish thrive, yet still see one more endangered-species listing as too much for the north state's human residents to digest.

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