Bush Administration Appeals
The Bush administration has appealed a federal judge's ruling in an effort to boost power production this month by curtailing the amount of water spilled to help ocean-bound salmon pass Columbia River basin dams.
The Army Corps of Engineers and National Marine Fisheries Service on Wednesday filed the appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
At issue is a Bonneville Power Administration initiative to generate another $18 million to $28 million in revenues while offsetting harm to imperiled salmon through measures less costly than spilling water.
U.S. District Judge James Redden last week called the spill program a "core requirement" of a fish-protection plan laid out by salmon managers in 2000. Redden granted a request by environmental groups to order the corps to continue spilling water through the end of August at Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day dams on the Columbia River and Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River.
The 9th Circuit would have to overturn Redden's ruling quickly, as the spill program is due to end in any case on Aug. 31.
Spilling water saps a dam's ability to generate surplus power that could be sold at market rates in California, thereby reducing wholesale rates in the Northwest.
But biologists generally consider spilling water to be safer for endangered Snake River fall chinook than shooting them through turbines, where they might clang off the huge blades or suffer an effect similar to the bends in deep-sea divers. Dam managers contend that as much as 90 percent of the Snake River fall chinook are captured and barged below Bonneville Dam in August, thus reducing the benefits of spilling water for the few fish left to negotiate the river on their own.
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