“Spill” sends water – and migrating ocean-bound juvenile salmon and steelhead - over Columbia-Snake River dams rather than through spinning turbines or in trucks or barges. As long as the dams remain, spill is one of our most effective salmon protections. It helps the dammed Columbia and Snake act more like natural rivers – the conditions under which salmon evolved, and what scientists overwhelmingly agree we must mimic if we are to restore wild salmon.
A recent report by Northwest scientists concluded that higher levels of spill will increase both the survival of salmon as juveniles migrate to the ocean and the numbers of adults that return to the river. They predict that sufficient spill levels may recover some of our at-risk stocks.
The Obama Administration is expected to release its new Columbia Basin salmon plan at year's end - replacing the previous 2010/2008 version that was ruled invalid and inadequate in federal court in 2011. This promising new report – based on sixteen years of ongoing research – provides the Administration with a new opportunity to embrace science and include an expanded spill program in its upcoming plan. This could help salmon and fishing communities, and provide greater certainty to regional ratepayers, and businesses. It might also break the long cycle of illegal federal plans, and lay the groundwork for a regional stakeholder collaboration that can tackle the linked issues of salmon, energy, and transportation in the Columbia Basin.
Daily Astorian Editorial: Same old story - Obama buys into the sad inertia of low expectations on salmon
Monday, September 16, 2013
Although this year’s relatively abundant returns of fall Chinook might seem to mark a kind of success in the long-running struggle to ensure salmon survival, true progress remains elusive. In particular, a newly revised plan for restoring wild salmon is disappointing.
Going by the peculiar name of biological opinion (bi-op for short), this planning document from the federal NOAA Fisheries service is the essential blueprint for how the federal government will meet its obligations to salmon under the Endangered Species Act. Heroically no-nonsense federal judge James Redden, who recently retired, repeatedly held federal feet to the fire as bureaucrats offered bi-ops that made only superficial progress toward setting salmon on a path to sustainable populations.
Perhaps rolling the dice that a new judge won’t want to continue in Redden’s proud tradition of profound skepticism, NOAA Fisheries’ latest effort remains rooted in the games of the past. In the same way it has enthusiastically embraced other Bush administration priorities like snooping on American communications, the Obama administration also continues offering “stay-the-course” salmon plans. These defer to the Columbia River’s industrial users while making little real effort to permanently repair the disconnections caused by dams and reservoirs.