How to Settle Dams vs. Fishby Editorial Board
Democrat Herald, August 4, 2011
The only thing that might stop it is an argument that the government can't allow
all that additional burning of fossil fuels in the interest of slowing global warming.
If Congress was doing its job, it would settle the question of dams versus salmon in the Columbia River Basin once and for all. So far it has not, so the case remains with U.S. District Judge James Redden.
This week Redden again rejected the latest effort by federal plan writers to comply with two conflicting laws and interests, the Endangered Species Act on the one hand and the Northwest's economic survival on the other.
Redden has rejected two previous attempts, by a different administration, to do the same thing. He keeps saying the "biological opinions" written by the federal agencies do not comply with the federal law under which several fish runs on the Columbia have been declared threatened.
What he wants is a plan -- as though any plan could assure this -- that guarantees that the salmon runs will survive in the face of the continued operation of the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
This making of plans by the government and their rejection by Judge Redden has been going on for 10 years now.
The next plan is due in 2013. Assuming Redden is still around by then -- no reason to think he won't be, since federal judges serve for life -- chances are he will reject that plan as well.
And then he might assume operational control of the dams, running them for fish alone. He might even order the destruction of some of them, especially on the Snake.
That would kill barge traffic on the Snake, leading to much more trucking on I-84 or many more trains through the Gorge. The only thing that might stop it is an argument that the government can't allow all that additional burning of fossil fuels in the interest of slowing global warming.
If well-motivated and knowledgeable federal fish experts can't overcome the conflict between the ESA and the region's interest in clean hydropower and navigation, nobody can.
Well, Congress could. It could write a law spelling out that the dams can continue to operate to provide electricity and all their other benefits, and that provisions of the ESA may not be used to hamper their operation.
If Congress wanted to demonstrate to the Northwest that it can solve a problem, that's an act it would pass.
Salmon Decision Makes BPA Customers Pay Twice by Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman, 8/3/11
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