Judge Sends U.S. Agencies
by William McCall, Associated Press
PORTLAND -- A salmon recovery plan for the upper Snake River that has sharply divided conservation groups and lawmakers is headed back to federal agencies with a warning from a judge who says he will not tolerate any more delays.
The ruling Tuesday by U.S. District Judge James Redden in Portland formally sent the plan, called a biological opinion, back to NOAA Fisheries to account for the effects of a related plan for the lower Snake and Columbia rivers.
"Given the precarious condition of the Snake River salmon and steelhead runs, the consequences of another failed biological opinion will be serious indeed," Redden wrote.
Redden had already ruled last May the upper Snake plan needed to be rewritten to meet Endangered Species Act requirements that protect salmon and steelhead.
The latest ruling, however, "is definitely a shot across the bow of the federal government," said Glen Spain, Northwest regional director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "Redden said there will be no more delay and no more denial," Spain said. "It's very strong language. I rarely see anything like that from a judge."
Redden ruled previously that NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation must consider how salmon are affected by a dozen irrigation projects on the upper Snake River along with hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers.
The agencies have been treating the irrigation projects and the dams as separate fish management problems, issuing two biological opinions, partly to guarantee enough irrigation water to Idaho farmers, Redden said.
The judge said the agencies can issue two biological opinions, but they must take a unified approach.
Judge Redden's Remand Order
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