Obama Administration Backs Bush-era
by Scott Learn
After a court-ordered review, the Obama Administration today submitted its update to a 2008 Bush-era plan that tries to square dam operations with protecting wild salmon in the Columbia Basin, making relatively minor changes that are unlikely to satisfy the plan's opponents.
The NOAA Fisheries Service said it found "no major surprises" in its review of the Bush Administration's 2008 biological opinion and only "modest changes" in the science governing fish recovery.
The plan, which covers 10 years of hydropower dam operations, is "not likely" to jeopardize the fish or damage critical fish habitat, the fisheries service said.
Thirteen runs of wild salmon and steelhead on the Columbia and Snake rivers are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
U.S. District Court Judge James Redden has twice rejected earlier plans, and will now consider whether the updated plan meets legal muster. He requested the review in February, giving the government three months to conduct it.
The plan is supported by a majority of Northwest tribes and states. Its opponents include the state of Oregon, the Nez Perce Tribe and a coalition of fishing and conservation groups, who argue it favors power production and shipping interests rather than threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.
Oregon has argued that the fish need higher flows in the Columbia River than the plan envisions, while salmon advocates contend the surest way to save the fish is to remove four federal dams on the lower Snake River.
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