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Judge Questions Plan to Safeguard Salmon

by Joe Rojas-Burke
The Oregonian, May 14, 2004

A ruling grants the Bush administration
six more months to rework its blueprint for fish recovery

A federal judge in Portland on Thursday voiced strong doubts about the government's latest efforts to protect threatened salmon from harm caused by hydroelectric dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers, but he gave the Bush administration six more months to solve its legal problem.

U.S. District Judge James Redden expressed alarm about the lack of money secured for habitat restoration and other measures to make up for salmon killed or injured by dams. The judge said he was concerned that the extra time he granted "will be essentially futile because adequate funding is not in place and will not likely be secured in the near future."

The judge in May 2003 rejected the federal government's blueprint for salmon recovery. Ruling in favor of several conservation groups, Redden said the government's attempt to use habitat restoration and other steps to compensate for the harm caused by dams fell short of standards required by the Endangered Species Act.

The judge originally gave the Bush administration until June 2 to reshape the plan. On Thursday, he granted an extension until Nov. 30 but required a draft to be released by the end of August.

Redden also questioned the way the Bush administration has responded to his original order. Redden said government officials appear to have proposed a new strategy for deciding whether dams jeopardize listed salmon and steelhead, rather than fixing aspects of the salmon plan the court found to be lacking.

Earthjustice attorney Todd True, who led the case against the government, welcomed the judge's opinion.

"It's sort of stating the obvious," True said. "You can write all the plans you want, but if you don't have the money to implement them, it doesn't do much good."

Rob Walton, an official with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency responsible for threatened and endangered salmon, said Thursday that he and others had not received the judge's opinion and so could not comment.

The court set a June 4 meeting to get an update from attorneys for the government and conservation groups.

Related Pages:
Failed Salmon Projects; Ranchers Vulnerable by Rocky Barker, The Idaho Statesman, 4/29/4
BiOp Meeting Focuses on Enviro Baseline Proposal by Barry Espenson, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 4/16/4
Feds' May Turn Hydro BiOp on Its Head by Barry Espenson, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 4/2/4

Joe Rojas-Burke
Judge Questions Plan to Safeguard Salmon
The Oregonian, May 14, 2004

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