Salmon Groups Ask Court
by WA News Service
Seattle - The State of Oregon and salmon recovery groups say they want to try something different to work toward court-ordered solutions for endangered fish in the Columbia River System. The federal government wants to stay the course - noting habitat improvements. Again, the decision will likely be made by the courts. Comments from Bill Arthur, national field director, the Sierra Club; and Brett Brownscombe, a policy advisor for Gov. Kitzhaber's Natural Resources Office. Oregon and the Sierra Club are plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit.
An offer to try something new and different for working on plans to restore endangered salmon is on the table. The State of Oregon and salmon recovery interests want a settlement judge appointed - a step they say could improve discussions. The federal government has rejected the offer, noting that current habitat projects are already improving salmon survival rates at dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers - something that salmon advocates dispute. Bill Arthur with the Sierra Club is disappointed by the feds' decision.
"What we do know is that just repeating the same failed process for the fifth time in a row won't get the job done, and that's why, you know, why most of the organizations have in fact asked to convene a stakeholder process."
U-S District Court Judge James Redden has ordered parties in the lawsuit to collaborate on ways to improve the federal salmon plan, which was ruled "illegal." The Sierra Club is a plaintiff in the case. Redden is expected to issue a decision on the request for a settlement judge in the coming weeks.
The State of Oregon had joined the request for a settlement process. Brett Brownscombe in the Governor's Natural Resources Office there acknowledges that the current federal approach of habitat improvements has seen some success - although he says it isn't enough to meet court-ordered changes.
"An approach is needed that focuses on outcomes through a process that addresses not just habitat mitigation, but the other key issues and interests around this region related to operation of the Columbia dams and reservoirs."
The Bonneville Power Administration issued a news release stating that its approach to habitat projects is supported by independently-developed scientific information that documents benefits to fish - and that B-P-A is focusing on all aspects of fish survival.
Bill Arthur outlines the merits of a settlement process in which all sides would work toward solutions. That means listening to the commercial and recreational fishermen, tribes, barge workers, farmers and taxpayers' groups, among others.
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