SEATTLE — A bill making it easier to kill sea lions that feast on imperiled salmon in the Columbia River has cleared the U.S. Senate.

The measure would allow a more streamlined process for Washington, Idaho, Oregon and several Pacific Northwest tribes to capture and euthanize sea lions.

Supporters say the bill will protect salmon and steelhead and give wildlife managers greater flexibility in controlling sea lions.

Critics call it ill-conceived and say it won't solve the problem of declining salmon.

The federal government currently authorizes the states to kill sea lions near Bonneville Dam east of Portland, Oregon, but only if they first document individual animals causing problems.

The bill sponsored by Idaho Sen. Jim Risch and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell cleared the Senate Thursday. It's similar to legislation that the U.S. House passed in June.