Judge Should Accept
by Editorial Board
U.S. District Court Judge James Redden recently received an updated version of the Obama administration's salmon recovery plan. We're not sure how long Redden will take to decide whether this latest submission meets the requirements of the federal Endangered Species Act. But we await that decision with some apprehension.
Redden's Portland courtroom has not been a friendly environment for those tasked with drafting plans that balance the needs of salmon against the needs of hydroelectric power consumers throughout the Pacific Northwest. He has rejected several plans dating back to the previous administration.
Critics say the current administration's updated plan is little changed from one Redden rejected last year. And last year's salmon plan was very similar to the Bush administration's 2008 salmon recovery plan - a plan little changed from one rejected by Redden in 2007.
Save our Wild Salmon, the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and several other advocacy groups expressed disappointment in President Obama's seeming reliance on the previous administration's strategies for saving Pacific Northwest salmon. We see Obama's general acceptance of his predecessor's work as evidence of the soundness of those earlier plans.
Indeed, the Bush administration's 2007 plan put forth an aggressive strategy for salmon recovery that, nevertheless, recognized the irrigation needs of farmers and attempted to moderate the burden shouldered by hydroelectric power consumers. That burden already is significant. Cowlitz PUD ratepayers invest abut $30 million annually in salmon recovery.
The federal judge's dismissal of the initial Bush plan as inadequate was baffling. The Bonneville Power Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had committed to a comprehensive, 10-year salmon recovery plan. Many involved in that recovery effort doubted the usefulness of the plan's costly, court-ordered dam spills. The recovery plan's total costs came to around $6 billion. Still, Redden found the plan inadequate.
The Obama administration apparently found the 2008 plan mostly adequate. It's adopted most of the strategies contained in the plan. One of the Obama administration's few deviations from the earlier plan is a willingness to study the possibility of dam breaching in the future if the salmon recovery strategy wasn't working.
That isn't aggressive enough for critics on the left and it's too much of a concession to salmon recovery for critics on the right. Taking fire from both left and right sometimes suggests that you've got it about right. We believe that to be the case with the Obama administration's salmon recovery plan. It strikes us as a balanced approach.
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