Judge Redden says Keep
by Rocky Barker
A federal judge told the Obama Administration Monday its changes to a Columbia-Snake salmon and dam plan should include a contingency plan to breach the four lower Snake dams or drawdown reservoirs on the Columbia if current measures fail to protect endangered fish.
U.S. District Judge James Redden wrote in a letter Monday he welcomed the administration's effort to review the controversial biological opinion on how federal dams impact 13 stocks of endangered salmon and steelhead. But he said he still doubted the existing plan meets the Endangered Species Act.
"Federal Defendants have spent the better part of the last decade treading water, and avoiding their obligations under the Endangered Species Act..." Redden wrote. "Only recently, have they begun to commit the kind of financial and political capital necessary to save these threatened and endangered species, some of which are on the brink of extinction. "
"We simply cannot afford to waste another decade," Redden wrote.
In addition to keeping dam breaching on the table, Redden urged the administration to look for additional flows of water from the Snake and Columbia River, which could require more releases of water from the Boise River's reservoirs. He also urged that federal agencies continue to spill water over eight federal dams on the two rivers, which dramatically reduces the revenue from electric power generated by the dams.
Redden also urged more funding for habitat projects to improve both spawning and estuary habitat.
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