Federal Judge Redden Taking
by Rocky Barker
Redden has been at the center of the debate over the Columbia-Snake River salmon for a decade.
U.S. District Judge James A. Redden told attorneys involved in the case he will step down before the next salmon biological opinion is filed in 2014.
That means a new judge will hold sway over the fate of the salmon, the price of electric power, the availability of water and shipping to Lewiston.
Redden took the bench in 1980, after a career as a trial attorney and prominent Oregon Democratic legislator, treasurer and attorney general. The federal courthouse in Medford, Ore., is named for him.
But most people in the Pacific Northwest first heard his name when he ruled in 2003 that the biological opinion -- BiOp in courtspeak -- for the Columbia and Snake River dams did not meet the requirements of the federal Endangered Species Act for protecting endangered salmon and steelhead.
It was the first of three rulings he made, striking down increasingly costly and stricter plans to restore the wild salmon that for many people are the manifestation of the wild character of the region.
His rulings have not brought environmentalists, fishermen, fishing businesses and the Nez Perce tribe the removal of the four dams on the lower Snake River that they wanted. But he forced federal agencies to adhere to requirements to spill water over dam spillways and away from turbines to aid fish on their migration to the Pacific.
His rulings also led federal agencies to fund habitat-improvement projects from the Columbia estuary east to the Pahsimeroi Valley in Idaho.
"Judge Redden has done more for Idaho's wild salmon and steelhead than the three past administrations combined," said Bill Sedivy, director of Idaho Rivers United.
Rep. Doc Hastings of Pasco, Wash., the Republican chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, had a quite different view of Redden when he issued his ruling ordering the new BiOp Aug. 2.
"With this ruling, Judge Redden has gone farther than ever before in substituting his decades as a lawyer for the combined wisdom of hundreds of biologists and scientists at the federal, state and tribal agencies that joined together to develop this broad, collaborative fish recovery plan," Hastings said.
I struck the 2000 BiOp, and the 2004 BiOp, and the 2008/2011 BiOp by James A. Redden, Letter to Counsel, 11/22/11
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs