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Judge says plan too vague and uncertain

Portland, OR - Today, a federal court rejected as illegal a federal
agency plan to protect vanishing wild salmon and steelhead from the
harmful effects of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake
Rivers. The court ruled that the plan fell well short of meeting the
requirements of the Endangered Species Act. Salmon advocates have
been pointing to the plan's inadequacies since it was released in
December of 2000.

"This decision creates a great opportunity," said Mark Van Putten,
president of the National Wildlife Federation. "By rejecting the
administration's salmon plan because it lacks scientific credibility,
the door is open to fashioning a plan based on sound science that
will save salmon and help build a sound economic future for all the
region's people - farm, rural, Tribal and urban. We hope this
administration will take an honest look at what's really needed to
restore wild salmon in the Snake and Columbia River basin and invest
in the future economic opportunities that a restored river resource
could offer."

A coalition of fishing businesses and energy and conservation groups
filed the lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service, now
NOAA Fisheries, in May 2001 because it ignored lethal river
conditions created by the dams and instead relied too heavily on
future, speculative actions of other federal and non-federal entities
to make up for the massive number of salmon that are killed by the
dams every year.

"We are not so rich that we can afford to lose our wild salmon or so
poor that we must keep the Snake River dams that are killing them,"
said Carl Pope, executive director, Sierra Club. "The court's ruling
reminds us that we cannot pretend to have solved a problem that we
haven't yet really addressed. Now is the time for the whole country
to join with the Northwest and insist that we take bold steps that
will bring back the wild salmon in the Columbia Basin."

The court found that the federal plan improperly relied on actions
that may not ever occur to make up for the mortality caused by the
federal dams. Specifically, the court determined that the "record
clearly establishes that NOAA improperly relied on range-wide
off-site federal mitigation actions...and non-federal mitigation
actions that are not reasonably certain to occur in order to" ensure
that salmon will survive.

"This was always just a plan about planning - one that put off for
tomorrow decisions we need to make now if our children are to enjoy
wild salmon in a river that is the heart of this region," said Todd
True, attorney, Earthjustice. "The court saw through the plan's
empty promises and said they are not enough to comply with the law.
These fish are in real trouble; they need real action. The court has
given us all an opportunity to take effective action now."

The federal plan called for only small changes in federal dam
operations and relied heavily on voluntary restoration actions by
other federal and non-federal entities. It even continues to allow
the federal dams to kill as many as 90 percent of some salmon

"Salmon and fishing communities have long borne the weight of bad
federal decisions," said Glen Spain, NW regional director, Pacific
Coast Fishermen's Federation. "What the court said is that the
federal government should go back and get it right this time, before
both the salmon and the fishing communities that once depended upon
them all go extinct."

As NOAA Fisheries acknowledges in its briefs, salmon and steelhead in
the Columbia and Snake rivers "remain in a state of perilous decline
throughout the...Basin." While these fish were once the backbone of
a prosperous Northwest fishing and recreation economy, construction
of four federal dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington
have caused the largest salmon populations in the Basin to plummet.
Now 12 salmon and steelhead populations are imperiled throughout the
Basin and all Snake River salmon are either listed under the
Endangered Species Act or have already gone extinct.

Plaintiffs in this case include National Wildlife Federation, Idaho
Wildlife Federation, Washington Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club,
Trout Unlimited, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's
Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Idaho Rivers United,
Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Idaho Salmon and
Steelhead Unlimited, Friends of the Earth, American Rivers,
Federation of Fly Fishers, Salmon For All, NW Energy Coalition, and
Columbia Riverkeeper. The following filed amicus briefs supporting
the plaintiffs: State of Oregon, Nez Perce Tribe, Confederated
Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation, Confederated Tribes of
the Umatilla Indian Reservation and Confederated Tribes of the Warm
Springs Reservation of Oregon.

Plaintiffs were represented by Todd True and Steve Mashuda of
Earthjustice and Dan Rohlf and Aaron Courtney of the Pacific
Environmental Advocacy Center.

Additional Quotes and Contacts:

Pat Ford, Executive Director
Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, Contact: Vicki Paris (206) 286-4455, x. 19
"The best science has told us that the surest way to recover Snake
River salmon is to remove the four lower Snake River dams. When are
we going to heed that advice and start the job that will bring back
the wild salmon and all that they represent?"

Jeff Curtis, NW Conservation Director
Trout Unlimited, (503) 827-5700 x11
"Thankfully the Court has recognized that this plan dodged the
difficult decisions that must be faced head-on if we're ever going to
see real recovery of these fish. Now we can get on with the real work
of making the region's salmon economies, communities and natural
heritage whole again while there's still time to do so."

Bill Sedivy, Executive Director
Idaho Rivers United, (208) 343-7481
"The 2000 plan claimed the government could fix the salmon problem
without addressing the root cause - the four Lower Snake Dams. We
thought all along that the strategy behind the plan was a bit like
trying to treat cancer with aspirin. Fortunately, the judge saw it
that way, too."

Liz Hamilton, Executive Director
Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, (503) 631-8859
"Given that these dams have wiped out an entire fishing economy, we
find the Federal Attorney's proclaimed satisfaction with current run
levels incomprehensible. For the feds to claim that their only
responsibility is to avoid slipping below the "threatened" bar, is
just another slap in the face to struggling fishing communities."

Rob Masonis, Regional Director
American Rivers, (206) 213-0330, x. 12
"The federal bureaucrats responsible for recovering Columbia and
Snake River salmon have run out of places to hide. It is time for
them to come forward with a real recovery plan that will achieve the
goal agreed to by the four Northwest governors in 2000: restoration
of salmon and steelhead to sustainable and harvestable levels.
Today's ruling means that the federal government has yet to show it
can recover salmon while leaving the four lower Snake River dams in
the river."

# # #

16,786 Posts
A whisper of hope! :cheers:

Those Snake Dams and their killing of so many Columbia runs, have impoverished the communities of the lower river in counties like Columbia, Clatsop, Watcom, etc.

That Columbia County has an unemployment rate of 9% to 12% is in no small part due to those dams and the decision to make Lewiston Idaho a seaport (rather than shipping crop exports by rail). Basically, these communities and the salmon were sacrificed to create an artificial seaport.

The dams have been a disaster for people (other than the corporate farms they support)and salmon.

It's time to recognize the mistake that was made and at very least, if the dams aren't breached, they need to be operated so that healthy salmon runs are restored.

14,642 Posts
This is how to get things done.

the Sierria Club, NSIA, and the commercials fighting to get what we want.

Hope the trend continues.

Mark and the hopeful dog.
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