Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NOAA opts for new approach on Columbia Salmon

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is reaching out to stakeholders on both sides of the Columbia/Snake salmon restoration issue in hopes of reaching concensus over a salmon recovery plan in the long divided region. Advocates for wild fish and sustainable fishing and tourism industries in the region have called for the removal of the four lower Snake River dams, pointing to the overwhelming body of scientific evidence in support of dam removal and the relatively minimal power generation capacity of the four dams. However, irrigatiors and those dependent on the in river shipping industry have thus far won out and to date none of the Biological Opions (BiOps), documents issued by the federal government guiding the recovery of ESA listed salmon and steelhead, have included dam removal as a realistic possibility. 

While the success of a stakeholder dialog remains to be seen, NOAA appears to be sincere about bringing people together to craft a lasting solution on the Columbia, hiring conflict resolution experts from Portland State University and the University of Washington to seek consensus. The university teams  will conduct interviews with up to 200 people representing stakeholders from across the board, and will seek to guide NOAA in crafting solutions that best balance the needs and interests of all groups. Given the long standing legal battle on the Columbia and the painfully incremental progress, the plan comes as a welcome change for fish advocates on the Columbia and Snake, but of course the devil is always in the details. 

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