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Dam Removal Still an Option as Lower
Snake River Litigation Settlement Talks Continue

by Staff
Environment Washington, November 1, 2023

Ongoing talks and Biden Administration engagement on creating recovery
action plans for Columbia and Snake River Basin salmon is encouraging

Yesterday, parties in an ongoing lawsuit over the operations of the Snake River dams agreed to another 45 day stay in litigation to continue settlement talks about how Columbia and Snake River Basin salmon can be restored to abundance.

The lawsuit against five federal agencies was brought on by a coalition of fishing, conservation, and renewable energy groups, Northwest Tribal nations including the Nez Perce Tribe and the Couer d'Alene Tribe, and the state of Oregon. The litigation is centered around the federal governments obligation to restore endangered salmon under the Endangered Species Act, and meet federal treaty obligations.

Litigants will have until December 15, 2023 to work out a proposed package and commitment to restore Snake River salmon, and request a multi-year stay while plan is implemented, otherwise they will return to court.

Many Snake River salmon and steelhead populations are on a path to extinction, including the Chinook salmon that Southern Resident orcas rely on for the main staple of their diet. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommended in their 2022 report that breaching the lower Snake River dams is "essential" to avoid Snake River salmon extinction and rebuild these populations to abundance.

This litigation stay comes on the heels of the Biden Administration's recently issued Presidential Memorandum, which directs federal agencies to use their resources to help restore ‘healthy and abundant' salmon populations.

We are are encouraged by the Biden Administration's commitment to salmon recovery and urge federal leaders to develop and implement a recovery plan with urgency.

Parties in Snake River Salmon Litigation Ask Court for More Time

SEATTLE, WA -- A coalition of fishing, conservation, and renewable energy groups, represented by Earthjustice, have jointly agreed, with the Biden administration, the states of Oregon and Washington, and the Nez Perce, Yakama, Warm Springs, and Umatilla Tribes to notify the court of an additional pause in litigation over dam operations on the Snake River for another 45 days.

The litigation, which challenges the latest federal plan for hydropower operations on the Snake River for not doing enough to save salmon from extinction, was set to resume after being on hold for the past two years.

"Extinction is not acceptable. Salmon are too important to Tribal Nations and to the ways of life, economies and ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest," said Earthjustice Senior Attorney Amanda Goodin. "On an issue this important, we need to take more time to see if we can move forward outside of the courtroom."

The new litigation stay extension states that by Dec. 15, 2023, the plaintiffs and federal defendants will either request a multi-year stay of the litigation while a proposed package and commitments to restore Snake River salmon is implemented -- or they will return to court.

The additional 45 days will allow the parties in the litigation listed above to present a proposed package of actions and commitments to other regional sovereigns and parties to the litigation and then work toward final review and approval of those actions and commitments.

While negotiations are ongoing, no one involved in the litigation is permitted to discuss the actions and commitments under consideration.

Earthjustice represents National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Northwest Energy Coalition, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United, Columbia Riverkeeper, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, and Fly Fishers International. The Nez Perce Tribe and state of Oregon are also aligned with these groups in litigation. A broad group of supporters and advocates are pushing to restore the Snake River and save wild salmon.

Dam Removal Still an Option as Lower Snake River Litigation Settlement Talks Continue
Environment Washington, November 1, 2023

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