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Judge in Portland Weighs Plan
to Operate Dams, Save Wild Salmon

by Staff
The Oregonian, May 9, 2011

(Jamie Francis) The John Day Dam, like others on the Columbia and Snake rivers, has moved to 24-hour spill -- that's the white water in the background -- to keep young fish out of its churning hydropower turbines. Debate is ongoing over whether to spill 30 percent or 40 percent of the river's volume instead of generating power, and over drawing down the 76-mile reservoir that backs up behind the dam to help speed downstream migration of juvenile salmon and steelhead. In a long-running lawsuit, U.S. District Judge James A. Redden has already shot down two government plans for dam operations in the Columbia River basin. Today in a Portland courtroom he holds what could be the final hearing on a third plan to operate the dams yet comply with Endangered Species Act protection of seven salmon and steelhead runs above Bonneville Dam. His decision also has consequences for electricity ratepayers and farmers in four states.

Details of the government's latest, more aggressive plan indicate that Redden, who has warned dam managers against "treading water" for another decade, will focus on fish survival improvements.

In a letter to attorneys last week, Redden said he wants to hear about the uncertainty of habitat benefits, the extent of survival improvements required under the law and the potential for more actions on dams.

The judge wrote in 2009: "We simply cannot afford to waste another decade."

Stories in The Oregonian on Sunday (Can at-risk fish and hydroelectric dams coexist) and Monday ( set up the stakes in the case, and a video of research at John Day dam shows how closely tracked the fish are.

To read further continuing coverage by The Oregonian.

Judge in Portland Weighs Plan to Operate Dams, Save Wild Salmon
The Oregonian, May 9, 2011

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