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Press Releases

Save Our Wild Salmon

June 23, 2015

Todd True, Earthjustice, (206) 406-5124
Glen Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, (541) 689-2000
Rhett Lawrence, Sierra Club, (503) 490-2869
Marc Krasnowsky, NW Energy Coalition, (425) 281-0668
Joseph Bogaard, Save Our wild Salmon Coalition, (206) 300-1003

Fishing businesses and conservationists highlight fatal flaws in Obama administration’s Columbia Basin salmon plan

Plan violates federal law and harms communities across the Northwest

PORTLAND, Ore. — Attorneys for fishing businesses, conservation groups and clean energy advocates are in U.S. District Court today, arguing that the latest federal plan for protecting endangered Snake and Columbia river salmon and steelhead is as fatally flawed as its four illegal predecessors.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys, joined by the State of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe, are telling the Court how the plan violates the federal Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The Obama administration did not make the changes necessary to comply with federal law and protect endangered wild salmon and steelhead," said Earthjustice attorney Todd True.  "The same, misdirected path will neither lead to restoration of the Northwest’s favorite fish nor provide certainty for communities up and down the coast.  It's long past time for a new approach that follows the law and the science and looks for what needs to be done to protect endangered salmon and steelhead."

Beginning in 2003, federal courts have declared four successive Columbia Basin salmon plans illegal. Most recently, in 2011, U.S. District Court in Oregon ordered federal agencies to rewrite the first Obama administration plan, which differed little from those of previous administrations. The ruling also maintained the Court order for spring and summer spill to help migrating salmon in the interim.

But the latest plan, issued in January 2014, repeats earlier mistakes, ignores valid legal and scientific concerns, and even calls for reducing spill, our most effective short-term action -- short of dam removal -- for avoiding wild salmon declines.

“The federal government has turned denial into an art form by continually ignoring scientific experts and the law,” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “For a quarter century, we’ve known that status quo dam operations couldn't restore healthy, fishable salmon runs. This deeply flawed plan fails to act on that knowledge and actually moves us in the opposite direction."  

As ocean conditions cycle into a less productive phase, effective river management becomes more critical to salmon survival. But the "new" plan, salmon advocates stress, fails to consider alternatives to business-as-usual dam operations. It compounds the problem by allowing reduced spill, lowering the bar for success by redefining the requirements of the Endangered Species Act, ignoring the additional harm caused by climate change and failing to account for the importance of Snake and Columbia river chinook to the survival of Washington's endangered orcas.   

“Families and businesses throughout the region have long-awaited a Columbia Basin salmon plan that balances their need for clean, affordable energy with wild salmon and steelhead protection," said NW Energy Coalition policy director Wendy Gerlitz. "We can have both wild salmon and clean energy. Unfortunately, the latest federal plan is holding us back."

The court is expected to rule later this year. Plaintiffs in this case include: American Rivers, Columbia Riverkeeper, Federation of Fly Fishers, Idaho Rivers United, Idaho Wildlife Federation, Institute for Fisheries Resources, National Wildlife Federation, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, NW Energy Coalition, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Salmon For All, Sierra Club, and Washington Wildlife Federation.

Further Information: Go here for a 2-page factsheet with additional background on the litigation and the plaintiffs main claims in their complaint.

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