Major Victory for Salmon
Judge sides with NWF (again!) in finding salmon protection plan inadequate
A U.S. District Court judge ruled yesterday that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service failed for the third time in 10 years to produce a legal and scientifically adequate plan (biological opinion) to protect imperiled Columbia-Snake River salmon from extinction.
“For a decade now, we have been advocating for real solutions to save salmon,” said John Kostyack, Vice President of Wildlife Conservation at the National Wildlife Federation. “With salmon populations hovering near 1 percent of their historic levels, the time for half-measures and vague promises is over. Dam removal remains the most scientifically sound and economically smart solution to recover salmon in this region.”
As part of a coalition of conservation groups, clean energy advocates, the state of Oregon, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the Spokane Tribe, National Wildlife Federation has led the legal fight to save Columbia-Snake River Salmon. As lead plaintiff on the case, NWF has argued that the best solution for restoring salmon is to remove four dams on the lower Snake River.
Currently, salmon must make their way past eight dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers as part of their annual migration up river. Several scientific studies and models have shown that removing the four dams on the lower Snake River would allow these salmon to rebound to healthy levels.
A 2010 plan by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council shows that breaching the lower four Snake River dams would not harm the Pacific Northwest’s ability to meet its growing energy needs. It demonstrates that those growing needs can be met almost entirely with energy efficiency and new renewable energy - measures that will lower consumers’ energy bills.
“The added threat of climate change increases the urgency for taking bold steps to save this species,” said Kostyack. “We can give salmon a fighting chance by literally removing the obstacles in their way.”
For fisherman in the region, the court’s decision offers hope for their industry.
“We have seen fishing opportunities dwindle along with salmon populations,” said Kostyack. “Healthy salmon populations mean a prosperous and robust fishing community. The court’s decision is as much about providing for people as it is about protecting fish.”
Judge James Redden has ordered NOAA to “produce a new biological opinion that reevaluates the efficacy of the RPA’s in avoiding jeopardy, identifies reasonably specific mitigation plans for the life of the biological opinion, and considers whether more aggressive action, such as dam removal and/or additional flow augmentation and reservoir modifications are necessary to avoid jeopardy.”
Fishing for a Future
Restoring wild salmon populations to the Columbia and Snake River Basins means also restoring economic health to many of the region's waterside communities.