Salmon Recovery, a Dam-site Betterby Editors
Seattle Times - May 29, 2005
Federal operators of the Columbia River hydro system were smacked with another legal two-by-four by a federal judge in Oregon who is determined to make them fully aware of the dams' role in salmon restoration.
U.S. District Judge James Redden has pushed accountability since a 2003 ruling in which he said the federal government's strategy lacked lawful and reasonable certainty of reliable follow-through. He faulted the federal government for failing to hold its own agencies accountable. Last week, the judge told the Bush administration to take another, harder look at how power projects figure into the decline of salmon runs and their eventual restoration.
In a February op-ed piece in The Seattle Times, four key federal officials said their "updated biological opinion addresses all of the threatened and endangered salmon in ways that make both biological and economic sense."
Judge Redden is unmoved and unconvinced. If the agencies do not satisfy the judge, they risk narrowing the options he has to employ to secure progress on recovery.
Arguably, dam removal looms larger in the background.
This editorial page sees breaching dams as so politically improbable that all the time, money and energy is better spent improving salmon habitat, hatchery operations, harvest management and hydro operations, especially on the main stem of the Columbia.
The trouble is, hydro operators are not making that case to the judge. The door remains open for the environmental community to make the biological, financial and political justification.
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