Monday, November 28, 2011

Changing Landsape for the Columbia BiOp

Last week Judge James Redden, who has long presided over the lawsuit surrounding the Columbia Biological Opinion (BiOp), announced that he will step down before 2014 when the next Biological Opinion is due. The State of Oregon, The Nez Perce Tribe and a coalition of conservation and fishing groups have been locked in a legal battle with the federal government since 2001 over the legality of the Columbia BiOp, winning three court decisions which found federal authorities in violation of the Endangered Species Act. As a result of the litigation, court mandated spill and other operational guidelines have led to improved survival for outmigrating smolts, and the BPA and federal government have invested millions of dollars in habitat restoration and hatchery reform. Yet the feds have fallen woefully short of their mandate to recover wild salmon in the Columbia and Snake, something which many believe will require the breaching of the four Lower Columbia Dams.

Also coming out last week was Trout Unlimited's announcement that they will be withdrawing as plantiffs on the Columbia BiOp marking a major change in course for the organization. The decision is somewhat puzzling given what is at stake on the Columbia, the track record for success through the courts and the Federal government's unwillingness to convene stakeholder meetings to decide the future of the four Lower Snake Dams. Departing the lawsuit Trout Unlimited states that they will focus instead on bringing stakeholders together to work out a management plan everyone can live with. Trout Unlimited has a long track record of working collaboratively with government and stakeholders to address conservation challenges, however given the intractability of the Columbia BiOp and the fundamental differences in the position of stakeholders and the government such a consensus may prove difficult to find.

An article from the Oregonian on Redden's departure:

An article from OPB on TU's decision:

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