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October 18, 2002
Contact: Lee Van Tussenbrook, (360) 906-6704

Settlement to benefit Southwest Washington fish

OLYMPIA – Salmon and steelhead recovery efforts in Southwest Washington will receive a boost as the result of a settlement reached recently between PacifiCorp and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

The $655,000 settlement will provide phased funding over the next five years for needed fish recovery projects in the Lewis River and elsewhere in the region. The funds will be used for a variety of projects that will directly benefit fish stocks, said Lee Van Tussenbrook, WDFW's southwest Washington regional director.

The settlement results from a June 1999 incident in which generators failed at Merwin Dam, owned by PacifiCorp. Water flows were inadvertently interrupted as part of an emergency shut-down procedure, resulting in the death of several hundred hatchery and wild steelhead and salmon in the North Fork Lewis River and in the fish-trapping facility at Merwin Dam.

Since then, PacifiCorp has provided over $2 million in additional improvements to safeguard against future fish losses from dam operations, including back-up power for hatchery pumps, automated spill response to maintain appropriate river flows and improved alarms and procedures for unexpected events.

"PacifiCorp has stepped up to the plate to remedy earlier fish losses and to ensure its future operations safeguard the resource," said Van Tussenbrook. "We look forward to working with PacifiCorp to protect and enhance fish resources in southwest Washington."

"We have had valuable discussions with WDFW and other agencies, all with the common goal of protecting habitat and mitigating the environmental impact of hydro operations," said Bill Eaquinto, PacifiCorp vice president for hydro relicensing. "We take our stewardship role very seriously."

PacifiCorp also recently purchased, for $5 million, land in the Lewis River Basin that provides valuable habitat for endangered salmon and trout.