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Salmon Case to Get New Judge

by Steven Johnson, December 21, 2011

The federal judge who has been at the heart of the controversy between salmon recovery and hydroelectric production in the Pacific Northwest is stepping down.

Simon was confirmed by the Senate in June to fill a slot on the Portland, Ore.-based court. He will be charged with reviewing an amended fish and wildlife plan that federal officials must file no later than Jan. 1, 2014.

A judge on the court for more than 30 years, Redden, 82, has been a lightning rod in one of the Northwest's most contentious cases. He has rejected three multi-billion dollar federal plans, called biological opinions, to protect endangered species of salmon in the Pacific Northwest.

The Seattle Times hailed him as "a good and demanding steward of the Endangered Species Act." But House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said he is "an activist judge who is intent on keeping dam removal on the table and keeping this issue tied up in his courtroom for years."

Fish and wildlife mitigation costs account for about $800 million a year, or 30 percent of the wholesale power rates of the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets power to co-ops and consumer-owned utilities.

In his latest ruling in August, Redden said he wants BPA, NOAA Fisheries and the Army Corps of Engineers to identify specific habitat improvements that will help protect species of fish listed under the Endangered Species Act by the 2014 date. He let the agencies' biological opinion stand until they make the required changes.

Steven Johnson
Salmon Case to Get New Judge, December 21, 2011

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