A federal judge repeatedly warned the federal government that only big changes to proposals for hydro dams would guarantee approval. Instead, the Obama administration has presented a plan that looks very much like the Bush strategy.
By Daniel Jack Chasan
May 26, 2010 - Isn't it nice when new information proves you were right all along? The Obama administration has had that happy experience, and it shared the good news on May 20, when NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service unveiled its Supplemental Biological Opinion on operation of the federal Columbia River system dams. The government looked at some new science. It looked at the old BiOp. And ... what do you know? Touch the old document up a little, and it's good to go — just as the feds had thought.
"Feds tweak Columbia salmon plan," says the headline on the Idaho Statesman's web site. "Obama Administration backs Bush-era plan for Columbia Basin salmon," says the equivalent headline in the Oregonian. "While there are verbs among the 'actions,' " says Todd True, managing attorney of Earthjustice's Northwest office, "there is no action."
Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda dismisses the new document as "a book report." Not even the government's own press release pretends that much has changed.
Federal courts have been tossing Columbia River BiOps since the Seattle Mariners had Alex Rodriguez at shortstop and Randy Johnson on the mound. The federal agencies are already 0-for-4. U.S. District Judge James Redden, who has thrown out two biological opinions and has had the current version in his court for two years, has made it clear that his patience has pretty well run out. It's hard to predict his next step in a case that has already dragged on into almost unchartered waters.