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PacifiCorps, which operates as Pacific Power along the West Coast, has committed more than $20 million over the next decade to improve salmon and steelhead habitat in the Lewis River watershed.

The move was part of a decision announced Friday by the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to a press release.

“These decisions which are based on extensive scientific studies will have significant and long-lasting benefits for salmon and steelhead that call the Lewis River drainage home,” said Mark Sturtevant, managing director, PacifiCorp Renewable Resources in the release. “Conserving fish habitat and enhancing fish populations in the Pacific Northwest is important to our communities. Our mission is to conserve this fish habitat and enhance salmon and steelhead populations while producing the low-cost, emission-free electricity our customers count on and care about.”

In 2012, PacifiCorp and other parties began environmental studies to determine the best next steps to conserve salmon and steelhead in the Lewis River.

Both agencies have said that PacifiCorp should develop a plan to implement habitat improvements in the Lewis River basin rather than installing additional fish passage facilities into Merwin Reservoir. The agencies will review the plans and will consider whether to require additional fish passage facilities into Yale Reservoir in the future.

The decisions from the two agencies come 10 years after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a 50-year federal license to operate PacifiCorps’ Lewis River Hydroelectric project. The license resulted in more than $100 million in fish passage investments at Swift and Merwin dams by PacifiCorp, all dedicated to opening up more than 100 miles of historic salmon and steelhead habitat upstream of Swift dam.

PacifiCorp and the federal agencies will also monitor and evaluate habitat improvements over the coming decade to determine the best course of action for the Yale reservoir area.

The additional investments will include habitat restoration projects such as creating and improving spawning beds; creating refuge for juvenile fish to grow and mature; and improving and protecting riparian areas that generate food and provide shade.

PacifiCorp will develop a plan for the improvements that will be reviewed and approved by the agencies, which will then be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its consideration.

“Environmental stewardship is one of PacifiCorp’s highest values,” said Sturtevant. “Working under this decision will allow us to continue making the kind of strategic investments that mean so much to the ecosystems we value and the communities we serve.”

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