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Judge Warns Feds on Salmon Plans

by Michael Milstein
The Oregonian, September 28, 2006

A federal judge in Portland hammered the U.S. government again this week for failing to protect declining salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers and hinted at serious consequences if it happens again.

U.S. District Judge James Redden said in a Tuesday order that next time he will not allow dams on the Snake River to continue operating under the Endangered Species Act. That could translate into irrigation cutoffs or other severe repercussions.

Federal fisheries officials, dam operators and the Bonneville Power Administration "have repeatedly and collectively failed to demonstrate a willingness to do what is necessary" to halt the extinction of protected salmon, Redden said.

He ordered the agencies to perform a comprehensive analysis of the damage dams on both rivers do to salmon and devise better ways to offset the damage.

He has skewered the agencies before, rejecting their plans. But his order this week gives specifics on what they must do when it comes to the Snake River, once a salmon stronghold in the Columbia system.

The Snake River once produced more than 1.5 million spring and summer chinook salmon each year, but in recent years the number of wild-born salmon returning to the river has been only a few thousand.

Federal dams on the upper Snake River divert vast amounts of water, contributing to the decline of the fish, Redden said.

Conservation groups said Redden's instructions mean federal agencies must look closely at breaching the dams to allow salmon past.

Related Sites:
Judge Redden's Remand Order

Michael Milstein
Judge Warns Feds on Salmon Plans
The Oregonian, September 28, 2006

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