Sunday, May 8, 2011

Oral Arguments on BiOp Set For This Monday


With the final round of legal proceedings on the updated Columbia River BiOp sent to begin on Monday, Judge James Redden last week sent a letter to those involved in the case identifying what he believes to be the six core issues which remain to be resolved. The State of Oregon, The Nez Perce Tribe and a coalition of environmental groups have sued the federal government over the plan. The six issues are

  • Federal defendents have argued that increased abundance and productivity of Columbia stocks means that they are trending toward recovery. Does this mean that a survival improvement is sufficient to avoid jeopardizing the species despite their already threatened status?
  • Does the most recent data reflect survival and recovery gaps for most listed populations? If so what are the consequences?
  • Are federal defendants predictions regarding the specific survival benefits of habitat improvements based on independent, reliable and scientifically verifiable information?
  • Has the federal government exhausted all feasible options for hydro mitigation actions which are likely to improve survival of the listed species?
  • What are the prospects for the survival and eventual recovery of listed Upper Columbia stocks in light of severely degraded habitat?
  • Given the uncertain survival benefits resulting from proposed habitat restoration will the federal government consider reporting on progress and revising the plan in the event that Comprehensive Evaluations in 2013 and 2016 do not reflect the anticipated improvements?
Redden has now presided over the legal proceedings surronding the BiOp since 2003 and has so far deemed each BiOp illegal on the grounds that it fell short of the ensuring the recovery of ESA listed salmon on the Columbia River. In 2006 despite objections from the federal government and manages of the hydrosystem he ordered spill over dams to improve fish passage down river during the critical smolt outmigration. Since then upriver stocks have seen a tremendous improvement in productivity and many have cited court ordered spill as a major contributor to improved runs.

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