Judge James Redden of the Federal District Court in Portland issued a final ruling on an Obama Administration plan to make hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest safer for spawning salmon. Redden’s decision came on the basis that the plan, known as the biological option, was too vague in its various proposals to make the salmon’s natural habitat “safer,” and that it violated certain portions of the Endangered Species Act.
Redden chided the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Obama administration for not extending their promises of safer dams beyond 2013, or even that “the expected habitat improvements – let alone the expected survival increases – are likely to materialize,” and recommended that they voluntarily remove and rework their supposed improvements on a Bush-backed plan from 2005 that salmon-supporters and Redden alike believe too closely mirrors Obama’s current plan. In fact, salmon advocates have been outspoken on the issue since the plan’s genesis in 2009 – you can read through archived pleas from the Save Our Wild Salmon organization here.
The Obama administration and the NOAA will now take three months to try and improve and specify certain aspects of the plan. Redden has made two similar rulings in the last 15 years, finding ways to balance the interests of the hydroelectric industry and the environmental costs in federal rules. You can read through a handy conversation between Beth Hyams and Rob Manning from OPB News on what comes next for the plan here.
Trip Van Noppen, President of Earthjustice, the public interest law firm representing fishing and conservation groups in the case, offered this simple solution after the ruling yesterday as one concrete change that would benefit salmon:
“Taking out the four dams that strangle the lower Snake River would bring millions of dollars from restored salmon runs to communities from coastal California to Alaska and inland to Idaho. Let’s reject the path that continues wasting money on failed salmon technical fixes and embrace a solution that could set an example for the rest of the nation.”