US: Deal reached to help endangered sturgeon spawn

By Nicholas,K. Geranios
Spokane, Washington (AP) 9-08

The U.S. government and environmentalists have reached an agreement to help the endangered Kootenai River white sturgeon spawn for the first time since the 1970s, the parties say.

The deal will end six years of litigation over efforts to save the largest freshwater fish in North America. The sturgeon, which can grow to 19 feet (6 meters) long, are found only in northern Idaho, northwest Montana and southeast British Columbia.

“We hope this leads to recovery,” Noah Greenwald, science director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said during early September. “This historic agreement helps give the sturgeon a shot at survival.”


The deal involves the center, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the state of Montana, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration. It has been submitted to a federal judge in Missoula, Montana, for his approval.

Kootenai sturgeon have not successfully spawned since the mid-1970s, when the Libby Dam was completed. The sturgeon were listed as endangered in 1994 because of operations of the dam, plus water quality degradation and loss of habitat.

The estimated 500 Kootenai sturgeon are believed to have been isolated from other white sturgeon since the last Ice Age. There are 24 species of sturgeon worldwide, and most are threatened with extinction. The local population has been decreasing at an estimated rate of 9 percent a year.

Under the agreement, the corps will continue to operate Libby Dam flows in a way to mimic ideal conditions for sturgeon spawning. If those measures are not successful, the corps will increase the flows.

In the longer term, the parties agreed to support a project intended to restore habitat so it is conducive to sturgeon recovery. The Kootenai Tribe, with funding from the federal agencies, will carry out that project.

On the Net:

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: