Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2008 BiOp May Soon be Law

On Monday before a packed house in Portlands US district court judge James Redden heard arguments for the third time on the 2008 Columbia River BiOp. While he has yet to approve the plan citing concerns over the unilateral decision making processes employed in writing the plan, he indicated that in general he supports the updated BiOp. Prior to monday, Redden has long held that the 2008 BiOp was illegal, and had thrown out the previous two iterations.

While the new plan does have a contingency for "studying" dam removal in 10 years if Snake River salmon continue to decline, it fails to act promptly or decisively on dams which are clearly the primary cause of declines in Snake River Chinook, Sockeye and Coho. Steelhead have fared slightly better with the dams however removal would almost certainly improve survival for all species. Furthermore the new plan removes some of the increased flow or "spill" during the smolt outmigration, which some believe played a considerable role in bolstering recent returns of salmon and steelhead to the Columbia. Lawers for the administration argue that increased spill comes at the cost of more greenhouse pollution because of lost opportunity for "green" energy at the dams. In reality though, its just a money saving measure. The Snake River dams generate less than 5% of our regions hydropower.

It is extremely disappointing to see the Obama administration and NOAA defending what is essentially a Bush era plan with such staunch determination. The plan is clearly flawed, and fails to address the fundemental cause for decline in Snake and Columbia River Salmon, the Dams. The Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society (an association of fish biologists) voted unanimously to support the breaching of the Snake River dams, and the current BiOp continues to be contested by the Nez Perce Tribe and the state of Oregon. Either the administration is simly saying they accept extinction of wild salmon in the Snake as not only a possible but likely outcome or they're delaying taking real action for convenience sake. Regardless, once abundant wild populations, locally adapted to their natal streams in the high desert and rocky mountain habitats of the Snake will continue to dwindle and disappear.

More information in the Oregonian:


Analysis on Save Our Wild Salmon's Blog


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