Salmon Advocates Sue Over Reservoir Planby Christopher Smith, Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer - September 30, 2005
BOISE, Idaho -- A coalition of salmon advocates resurrected a lawsuit Thursday seeking to overturn a federal operating plan for 22 irrigation reservoirs on the upper Snake River.
The coalition argued that plan has the same flaws as an operating plan for lower Snake dams that has already been ruled illegal.
A group of Idaho water users and farmers denounced the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, as a move intended to force Idaho's agriculture industry to choose between sending vital irrigation water downstream to help migrating fish or support breaching four dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers.
The suit was first filed in January 2004 against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries 2000 analysis on the effect of the upper Snake dams on endangered salmon and steelhead runs. It was brought by Idaho Rivers United, the National Wildlife Federation, American Rivers, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and the Institute for Fisheries Resources.
U.S. District Judge James Redden set the suit aside earlier this year because the federal agencies were developing a new "biological opinion" on the operation of the water storage facilities upstream from Hells Canyon Dam. That new upper Snake biological opinion was released in March. Ruling in a separate lawsuit in May, Redden struck down the Bush administration's proposals for salmon recovery efforts on the lower Snake portion of the fish migration route and ordered the agencies to try again.
Thursday's amended complaint now asks Redden to similarly rule on the federal plan for dam operation on the upper reaches of the Snake, which forms the Idaho-Oregon border before skirting across the southern half of Idaho into Wyoming. It also asks Redden to order NOAA to combine the upper and lower Snake dam operating plans into a single biological opinion to save dwindling salmon and steelhead runs.
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