PENDLETON - A plan Gov. Ted Kulongoski proposed in January to help salmon swim past the dams on the Columbia River would devastate ship traffic, Port of Umatilla Director Kim Puzey said Monday at Rotary luncheon.
But Kulongoski's natural resource adviser denied the plan was currently under consideration. Puzey, in turn, denied ever being told the proposal was scuttled.
The idea to drop the water level between the John Day and McNary dams by 17 feet was discarded after it was learned the plan would make navigation impossible, said Mike Carrier, Kulongoski's natural resource policy adviser.
"As soon as we learned that, we moved off of that position," he said. The idea was "used to begin discussion with federal agencies" about how to better protect endangered salmon species in the river.
Currently, Kulongoski supports a policy of helping restore salmon populations without negatively affecting other river uses, like barge transportation, Carrier said.
The idea of flushing more water through the dam system during critical times for young salmon came out of a "draft discussion document" released before Kulongoski's state of the state address Jan. 10.
Days later in the speech, Kulongoski scolded the Bush Administration for backing off what Kulongoski sees as a commitment to restoring salmon populations.
Puzey noted at the beginning of his speech to the Pendleton Rotary Club that sometimes ideas are floated by government officials to gauge their feasibility, but he called Kulongoski and his advisers "either nefarious or naive" for promoting the plan.
Carrier said it was an idea to spark discussion.
"I told him this," Carrier said, asserting that he had discussed the issue with Puzey during the last month and told him it was no longer under consideration.
Puzey denied hearing from Kulongoski's office that the governor had backed off the plan.
He said he was glad to hear the plan had been dismissed, although he noted he has not seen an official statement. He said he met with Carrier and other Kulongoski advisers Feb. 23 and discussed the plan.
"I have heard nothing since then; I've seen nothing circulated," Puzey said.
The ports of Umatilla and Morrow rely on barges to ship agricultural and other products to Portland.