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KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

Fish-Eating Birds To Be Killed At 5 Dams

Operators of five dams on the Columbia and lower Snake rivers will start killing birds that eat migrating juvenile salmon.

The measures are meant to protect endangered salmon and steelhead as they begin their journey out to sea. This is the first time in 20 years that dam managers say they have had to kill what they call nuisance birds at the dams.

“Research studies have shown that the fish-eating birds consume significant numbers of juvenile salmon and steelhead at the dams,” said Bruce Henrickson, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the dams.

Before taking lethal action, the Army Corps will continue trying non-lethal hazing methods, including water spray cannons, pyrotechnics and noisemakers, he said.

The corps has permits to “take” or kill up to 650 ring-billed gulls, 1,200 California gulls and 150 double-crested cormorants each year at the five dams. The birds are not listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The permits are for the corps to use at the McNary Dam on the Columbia River and the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams on the lower Snake River.

Operators of other dams on the Columbia River system use non-lethal hazing and avian wires to deter fish-eating birds.

The lethal measures will start March 30 at McNary Dam and April 1 at the four lower Snake River dams.

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