Thursday, August 4, 2011
A Huge Win for Columbia Salmon
On Tuesday Judge James Redden issued his final ruling on the latest round in the battle over the Columbia River Biological Opinion. For the third time he deemed it illegal; unlikely to save the Columbia's 13 ESA listed stocks of salmon and steelhead from extinction. The Biological Opinion is supposed to lay the ground work for the species recovery, bringing together the best available science to adopt policy that will foster the recovery of the species in question. So far the federal government has yet to live up to its responsibility in that regard, and after three tries and more than 15 years in court it's time for something to change.
In trying to pass the latest iteration of the BiOp the Obama administration all but photo copied the Bush plan already deemed illegal, adding some hypothetically beneficial habitat restoration projects and increased monitoring. On Tuesday Redden ruled that those habitat projects which are yet to be identified and are unlikely to occur to the full extent promised in the BiOp would not have done enough to improve survival for Columbia River salmon as they migrate to sea.
The current BiOp will stand until 2013 however Redden will retain jurisdiction over the case given the federal governments, "history of abruptly changing course, abandoning previous (biological opinions), and failing to follow through with their commitments to hydropower modifications proven to increase survival." The Judge also ordered the Federal government to submit a plan that can pass legal muster by 2014. To do that, he said the federal government must be more specific about habitat improvements and their benefit to wild salmon and most importantly, must consider "more aggressive" actions such as changing the way the hydrosystem is managed to removing some dams altogether.
The 14 mainstem dams, which have turned the Columbia and Snake Rivers into a series of lakes spanning hundreds of miles remain the most significant impediment to wild salmon recovery. Any Biological Opinion which seeks to ensure the long term recovery of salmon in the Columbia system must at least consider and weigh the benefits of dam removal. Going forward it is critical that the Federal Government adopt a more inclusive, open stance in planning the future of the watershed, bringing all parties and stakeholders to the table to get a recovery plan that works for the region. Visit Save Our Wild Salmon's website and take action.
More information in the Oregonian: