Obama Administration Wants Time to
by Rocky Barker
The Obama Administration has asked a federal judge for another month to seek a deal on its salmon and dam plan.
U.S. District Judge James Redden had given the new administration until August 15 to review the Bush Administration's biological opinion on the impact of federal dams on the Columbia and Snake River on 13 stocks of endangered salmon and steelhead. Coby Howell, an attorney for the Justice Department said the Administration has developed a position it hopes can be the basis for further talks to settle the lawsuit brought by environmentalists, fishermen, sporting industry groups, the Nez Perce tribe and the state of Oregon.
"We would like to discuss and explain our process and position on the (biological opinion) with all of the parties before formally presenting our position to the Court," Howell wrote. "In these discussions with the other parties we will be seeking to determine if there is common ground that can be achieved based on our review."
NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley met with from state tribal and federal officials about salmon and dams at a meeting on June. Since then former Washington Gov. Gary Locke has been confirmed as Commerce Secretary, which oversees NOAA.
The plan would spend around $1 billion annually more than federal agencies are spending now on 200 new hatchery and habitat projects, which gained support of Northwest tribes except for the Nez Perce. Idaho, Washington and Montana also support the current biological opinion.
(bluefish: This would double current salmon recovery expenditures of around $3 million dollars per day. Total hydropower revenue from four Lower Snake River dams is $270 to $350 million per year and costs are estimated at $190 million per year. See lsrcosts.doc, lsrmoney.doc and contact BPA's retiring Paul Norman for verification as he discussed these numbers with bluefish in 2004.)
But Redden wrote a letter in May to the parties in the lawsuit that said he didn't believe the current scientific analysis passes scientific or legal scrutiny. He also urged the administration to keep dam breaching or drawing down reservoirs as a contingency plan.
Redden also urged the administration to look for additional flows of water from the Snake and Columbia River, which could require more releases of water from the Boise River's reservoirs. He urged that federal agencies continue to spill water over eight federal dams on the two rivers, which dramatically reduces the revenue from electric power generated by the dams.
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