Saturday, February 1, 2014

New BiOp, More of the Same on the Columbia and Snake

Earlier this month the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released the latest version of the Biological Opinion (BiOp) on the recovery of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers. The BiOp is the latest version of the federal governments plan to recover wild fish in the Columbia system and once again it falls well short of the legal requirements to ensure recovery and limit the risks posed to listed wild stocks. Since the Clinton administration's first BiOp was rejected by the courts we've had 4 BiOps each of which has failed to meet the legal mandate of the ESA. Still the federal government seems more than happy to recycle, repackage and resubmit the same old garbage buying time for the Snake River dams, and moving wild fish in the Columbia ever closer to extinction.

The new BiOp relies heavily on speculation over the benefits of habitat improvements which were previously ruled to be inadequate by the courts. The latest plan is lacking in two key areas. First, despite the benefits spilling water over dams to aid downstream passage of smolts during the spring and early summer, the latest BiOp does not even consider expanding spill. Second, experts have long agreed that removing the four lower Snake River dams gives salmon and steelhead in the Snake the greatest chances of survival. Despite the cost of maintaining the dams, and their limited economic benefit, the BiOp doesn't ever consider dam removal or create an adaptive management framework for starting a discussion about dam removal if salmon populations continue to dwindle.

So we are headed back to court again, with salmon recovery advocates arguing the latest plan fails to protect wild salmon and steelhead under the requirements of the ESA.

More information in the Crosscut:

from the Idaho Statesman:

and from Save our Wild Salmon:

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