Friday, February 19, 2010

Judge finds fault with federal salmon plan

Conservation groups optimistic about order

Express Staff Writer

An U.S. Department of Fish and Game officer releases a sockeye salmon into Redfish Lake last autumn as part of a recovery program to help boost salmon stocks in the Pacific Northwest. A federal judge is in the midst of ruling on whether the government’s recovery plan for salmon and steelhead is adequate.

A ruling by a federal judge last week could lead to a consideration of dam removal on the Snake River as part of a federal salmon recovery plan.

The federal salmon recovery plan is being challenged by 15 conservation and sport fishing organizations, the state of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe. The groups object to the fact that the plan does not prioritize removal of dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers. The groups consider the dams to be the main hindrance to salmon recovery.

On Wednesday, Feb. 10, U.S. District of Oregon Judge James Redden granted a request by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers to cure procedural defects in additions that the agencies would like to make to the recovery plan. Without those additions, Redden stated in a letter to the agencies, he will have to rule on a clearly inadequate plan.

"The federal court is once again reiterating that the government hasn't done enough to meet the letter of the law more than 15 years after this argument began," said Greg Stahl, spokesman for Boise-based Idaho Rivers United.

In a letter coinciding with his order, Redden admonished the agencies that they "have an obligation under the Endangered Species Act to rely on the best available science." The agencies, he said, "cannot rely exclusively on materials that support one position, while ignoring new or opposing scientific information."

The "best available science," contended Kevin Lewis, conservation policy director for Idaho Rivers United, has to include the possibility of removing dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers.

The order gives the agencies three months to legally incorporate the Adaptive Management Implementation Plan, put forth by the Obama Administration last fall, into the federal recovery plan; otherwise, Redden will rule on the validity of the plan without the additions.

Jon Duval:

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