Important articles published by national and regional news outlets related to wild salmon restoration in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
The federal agencies that operate dams and sell power on the Columbia River will keep spilling water over the Lower Snake River dams next month to float young salmon downstream. They didn't want to. But with the weight of scientific opinion clearly against them, they decided to make the best of a bad thing.
The Bonneville Power Administration, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Northwest office of NOAA had asked the federal district court to let them follow a 2010 Spring Fish Operation Plan under which they'd stop spilling water over the lower Snake River dams by May 1.
On April 19, they told the court never mind.
Given all the scientific opinion to the contrary — everyone but NOAA thought that stopping spill was a bad idea — their chance of convincing the court seemed slim.
Those agencies are, of course, the defendants in the long-running suit over the Biological Opinion issued by the Bush administration in 2008, tweaked but basically defended by the Obama Administration last year, and scheduled to make another appearance in U.S. District Judge James Redden's court next month.
Federal courts have been hammering them over biological opinions for nearly 20 years. Redden, who tossed the Bush administration's first attempt at a BiOp, has expressed strong skepticism about this one, too.
When last seen, the BiOp would have made this year's proposed spring fish operation plan the new norm: federal agencies could spill or not spill at their own discretion. The fish operation plan was basically an effort to jump the gun.
Nineteen years after Columbia and Snake River salmon populations were first listed as threatened or endangered, we're still arguing about how to get them down the river.
River temperatures are higher in low-flow years, the agency and groups such as Northwest River Partners say, a drawback for the cold-water fish. Consumption of young salmon by predators, both other fish and birds, also rises in low water conditions.
But the advisory panel, which studied the issue at NOAA's request, sided with a mixed regimen of spill and transport similar to what Redden has favored in the past.
That squares with the position taken by salmon advocacy groups such as Save Our Wild Salmon, who say interest groups and politicians in Washington, Idaho and Montana are pressuring the administration to cut spills and keep electricity rates lower.
"Spill should be viewed as a default condition," the panel's report said, adding that spill "more closely mimics natural situations and ecological processes." A strategy similar to that ordered by Redden in the past, the report said, is "most in accord with available scientific information."
-- Scott Learn, The Oregonian
Earlier this week, Judge James Redden, who is hearing the long-running legal challenge to the Columbia Basin salmon plan,, sent a letter rejecting the federal government's proposal to shoehorn some additions into the 2008 Bush Salmon Plan and call it "good." The judge offered several suggestions to the federal agencies, and has given them until February 19 to decide what they will do.
Last year, as you may recall, Team Obama added a dubious "salmon insurance policy" to the (politically-driven and unscientific) plan crafted by the Bush Administration, adopted the whole package, and submitted it to the judge for approval. This week's letter and order is his response. Judge Redden identified both procedural and substantive shortcomings of the Obama Plan that will need to be addressed in order for the plan to pass legal muster.
In his letter, for example, the judge emphasized that, in order to comply with the Endangered Species Act, this plan must be based on "the best available science. They [federal agencies] cannot rely exclusively on materials that support one position, while ignoring new or opposing scientific information." For more on the science behind the Obama Salmon Plan. For more on the science behind Obama's Salmon Plan, go HERE.
Salmon and fishing advocates, as well as the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, the Spokane Tribe of Washington, and the State of Oregon, are greatly encouraged by the judge's action. We are hopeful that the Obama Administration will decide to make a sharp break with past failures on this issue and sit down with the people of the Northwest to develop a plan that works for both people and salmon, for our economy and our environment.
Have a great weekend and happy President's Day!. Thank you for your support, and look for some additional news on this and other developments early next week - and how you can help!
Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition
U.S. District Judge James Redden in Portland on Wednesday gave NOAA Fisheries Service until Feb. 19 to decide whether to voluntarily take back their proposed improvements to the Bush administration plan, known as a biological opinion.
The judge said this can fix procedural problems with the Obama administration revisions that prevent him from considering them. But he added that there are deeper flaws, and urged the agency to produce a stronger plan based on the best available science, as the law requires.
"I will not sign an order of voluntary remand that effectively relieves Federal Defendants of their obligation to use the best available science and consider all important aspects of the problem," the judge wrote. "This court will not dictate the scope or substance of Federal Defendants' remand, but Federal Defendants must comply with the ESA in preparing any amended/supplemental biological opinion."
Redden warned NOAA fisheries that he will view with "heightened skepticism" any attempts to deal with the issues superficially.
In a jumble of wilderness and mountains, nearly a thousand miles from any coast — and more than a mile, in places, higher than the sea itself — snowmelt funnels and gathers from a multitude of points, braiding into a river that sluices downhill with immense mass and remorseless flow.
Don Chapman and Stephen Pettit carry this epic sense of the river as they make a rare visit to newspapers in Spokane to advocate on behalf of wild salmon.
- Dec 27, 2009 - E-mails show internal debate over Obama salmon plan
- Nov 24, 2009 - Oregon Flyfishing Blog: The battle for Columbia Salmon comes to a head in Portland courtroom
- Nov 16, 2009 - Idaho Statesman, November 16, 2009: Redden raises new concern in salmon-dam case
- Nov 02, 2009 - The River Why's David James Duncan on water, salmon and the policies that are killing them
- Sep 24, 2009 - Crosscut: Obama science goes schizophrenic on salmon restoration
- Sep 01, 2009 - Judge James Redden: Steelhead God
- Jun 22, 2009 - Has the salmon debate changed? - Idaho Statesman - June 21, 2009
- May 31, 2009 - Crapo: Be open to dam breaching - Idaho Statesman - May 30, 2009
- May 28, 2009 - Caddis Fly Blog: Obama Administration Comes to Portland, Talks Salmon
- Apr 23, 2009 - Crosscut - Obama: Good news for Columbia River salmon
- Apr 07, 2009 - AP: Lower Snake 3rd most endangered river
- Mar 06, 2009 - Salmon recovery plan before U.S. judge
- Mar 06, 2009 - Seattle Times: February 10, 2009 - Columbia salmon plan goes before judge for third try
- Mar 06, 2009 - AP: March 6th, 2009: Federal judge faults plan in NW salmon dispute
- May 05, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Crowded conditions likely on Clearwater
- Dec 21, 2012 - AP: Wyden welcomes federal agency’s plan to seek consensus on saving salmon
- Dec 21, 2012 - NOAA takes first step toward building consensus
- Oct 10, 2012 - Idaho Statesman: Powerful Wyden supports new salmon talks
- May 29, 2012 - Idaho Statesman: The legacy of Lonesome Larry
- Nov 22, 2011 - Salmon Groups: Let’s Try Something Totally Different