A “strengthened plan” to restore salmon runs on the Columbia River opens the door, for the first time, to the idea of breaching dams on the Snake River.
But neither side in the contentious debate believes the administration has taken the correct approach.
The Adaptive Management Implementation Plan would call for dam-breaching only if “more aggressive” measures fail to reverse declines in salmon populations, according to a news release issued this morning by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The plan responds to a letter from federal District Judge James A. Redden, who said a biological opinion issued by the federal government would not restore Columbia River salmon runs, as required by the Endangered Species Act.
“The time has come to move out of the courtroom and get to work recovering salmon and preserving the region’s unique way-of-life,” said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. “This biological opinion, backed by sound science and tremendous state and tribal support, will help preserve the vibrancy and vitality of the Columbia and Snake River basins for generations to come.”
Supporters of dam removal blasted the plan, saying it continues a flawed policy. See the news release from a coalition of groups.
Here’s what Zeke Grader, executive director of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, had to say:
“This was a test for Commerce Secretary Gary Locke — on both economics and science — and this plan failed on both accounts. This decision will no doubt leave salmon in the perilous decline they have been in for years and communities up and down the coast and inland to Idaho will continue to suffer. For an administration so set on protecting and restoring jobs, this decision is a huge mistake and a clear signal to fishermen that their jobs don’t count.”
From Bill Arthur, deputy national field director for the Sierra Club:
“Although the Bush administration is gone, unfortunately it looks like its policies will live on for Columbia-Snake salmon. It’s a bit like the Night of the Living Dead; we keep fighting these failed and illegal salmon plans, but they continue to spring back to life… It’s now time for the Judge to bury this plan for good, and provide a fresh opportunity to get it right for the people, communities and magnificent salmon and steelhead of the Northwest.”
In a news release, U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, attacked the Obama administration for opening the door to dam removal, even a crack:
“The Obama Administration has put dam removal back on the table and delivered just what dam removal extremists have been demanding. No one should be fooled by talk of dam removal as a last resort when the Obama Administration is immediately launching studies and plans for such action.
“The extremists who brought this lawsuit may be critical about this plan because dam removal wasn’t delivered on a silver platter with promises of wrecking balls arriving next week, but they got what they wanted from the Obama Administration and they’ll try and convince Judge Redden to give them even more…
“I warned the Obama Administration that opening the door to dam removal even just a crack would incite dam removal extremists to keep fighting and divert time, attention and resources away from real solutions to recover salmon.”
Terry Flores, executive director of a user coalition called Northwest RiverPartners:
“This plan – while expensive – holds the most promise for the region to move forward collectively to do things that actually benefit fish… We support restoring wild salmon runs, and experience shows that dams and fish are co-existing, but this is an unprecedented cost people are being asked to bear in extremely tough economic times”
To view documents filed with the court today, visit the Federal Caucus Web site.
Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman
William McCall, Associated Press
William Yardley, New York Times
Editorial Board, The Oregonian
Matthew Preusch, The Oregonian
Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times
Editorial Board, Yakima Herald-Republic
Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman
Erik Robinson, The Columbian, Vancouver
Matthew Preusch, The Oregonian
Tom Banse, NPR, KUOW
Steve Scher, KUOW