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Judge: People Can Just Freeze

by HH
Albany Democrat-Herald, June 26, 2007

The Supreme Court of the United States makes sensible decisions these days, even though many are by the narrow vote of 5-4. So now would be a good time for the court to get an appeal from the salmon rulings of James Redden, a senior judge at the U.S. District Court in Portland.

As reported by the Portland Oregonian, Judge Redden has told the Bonneville Power Administration that salmon conservation comes before power production, even when this might mean that people are cold.

In April, it turns out, BPA had made an error and sold more power in advance than it had available from the hydropower dams in the federal system. The agency had two choices: increase the power from turbines at Northwest dams or cut off the juice that people needed during a cold snap.

As any reasonable federal agency would, Bonneville decided to live up to its power-selling commitments, even if it meant that some young salmon heading downstream would get mangled in the turbines.

Redden has been presiding over a long-running court case in which BPA and its opponents are trying to balance the need for power with preservation of salmon runs. When he heard about the April problem, he sent the BPA an order in which he said, among other things: "Under the circumstances here, threatened and endangered species must come before power generation."

In this case, the BPA had made a miscalculation. But once that error was made, it could not be reversed. Some thermal plants had been shut down and were not available to meet the demand.

What the judge should have told BPA is to do its best to avoid similar mistakes, but if mistakes do happen - and they do - the power needs of people in the Northwest region should come first.

Judge: People Can Just Freeze
Albany Democrat-Herald, June 26, 2007

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