No Need to Rethink Salmon Plan
by Scott Corwin
Recent efforts by salmon advocates to characterize U.S. District Judge James Redden's decision on the salmon plan for the Columbia and Snake rivers as a rejection of that plan requiring a reopening of negotiations are attempts to mislead the public and policy makers ("Give Stakeholders a Chance," Aug. 15).
Contrary to the alarmist claims, the court did not find the plan illegal. In fact, the court approved the bulk of the plan and ordered that it be implemented until 2014. It is only on a narrow issue of habitat improvements after 2013 that the court seeks additional information before it will decide whether the plan beyond that time meets legal standards.
Calls to reopen negotiations on the salmon plan fail to point out that the current plan is rooted in extensive regional collaboration. The plan was developed through an extensive collaborative process that involved the federal agencies charged with developing the plan, Northwest states, tribes and stakeholders. This process continues today as the plan is implemented. In its order, the court approved of this process and ordered it to continue. To reopen negotiations on the plan and enter into a new collaborative process would waste countless hours and years of rigorous work by the states, tribes and federal agencies that developed the plan.
Continued claims that salmon are near extinction are also untrue. Recent returns of adult salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers have outpaced returns in the past decade. For example, Snake River sockeye returns are more than four times the 10-year average. Overall, this year's sockeye return to the mouth of the Columbia River is at 149 percent of the 10-year average.
Record or near-record salmon returns across the Columbia River basin show that our efforts are working. A number of factors have led to strong salmon returns, including good ocean conditions. But we cannot overlook the enormous effort of the region to develop and implement the plan that includes modifications to river operations and improvements at hydroelectric facilities.
To date, consumer-owned electricity customers of the Bonneville Power Administration have invested nearly $12 billion on fish and wildlife mitigation and enhancement efforts in the basin. These are funds collected from consumer-owned utility customers and not from the taxpayers, as some claim.
The bottom line is that a new salmon plan was not ordered by the court because it is unnecessary. The current plan is rooted in unprecedented regional collaboration, and its implementation is paying off in healthy salmon returns.
To reopen the plan would be contrary to the court's order and would waste years of effort by the region to craft a plan that works for all of us.
In the end, we believe the plan will pass legal muster and continue to support healthy salmon returns into the future.
Judge's Ruling on NW Salmon Plan Asks for Clarity by Terry Flores, Register-Guard, 8/19/11
The Salmon Plan Gets a Solid "Yes, No, Maybe" from the Judge, by Terry Flores, The Oregonian, 8/13/11
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