of more spill at Columbia/Snake river dams for juvenile fish passage and
federal dam operating agencies have agreed to a schedule for periodic status
conferences and a protocol in a federal court case.
request for injunctive relief was enjoined with an earlier case argued in the
U.S. District Court of Oregon that resulted in a remand of the Columbia River
hydropower system’s 2014 biological opinion for salmon and steelhead. The
remand was issued by Judge Michael H. Simon in May 2016.
request, which was brought to Simon in January 2017 by the National Wildlife
Foundation and the State of Oregon, with the support of the Nez Perce Tribe,
asked the court to begin ordering spill to maximum total dissolved gas levels
beginning April 3 this year and to continue for each year of the BiOp remand.
his March 27 opinion and order, which was amended April 3, Simon agreed that
spill earlier in the year at the dams would benefit Endangered Species Act
salmon and steelhead, but held off on ordering that spill until next year,
saying it was “too rushed,” giving federal agencies time to plan for
operational changes at the dams resulting from the earlier spill schedule.
spill opinion also required the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to operate bypass
and PIT-tag juvenile detection systems at the dams beginning March 1, 2018
(that now occurs in mid-March to early April) and for the Corps to provide
timely reviews of future capital investments valued at over $1 million at the
dams in order to avoid a “significant risk of bias in the NEPA process,”
according to the order.
plaintiffs could then challenge in court those projects which they believe
could bias a National Environmental Policy Act review now in progress by dam
operating agencies. However, Simon refused to stop any spending necessary for
the safe operation of dams.
CBB, January 19, 2017, “Conservation Groups, Oregon, Nez Perce File To Stop
Capital Projects At Lower Snake River Dams,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438211.aspx)
Simon’s amended spill opinion said that he would hold periodic status
conferences regarding the spill and planning for the spill, giving the parties
28 days to confer and file recommendations for a schedule for the conferences.
a May 1 court filing, plaintiffs and defendants agreed to consider protocols
for spill at each dam, consider an adaptive management system and work together
to develop a spill implementation plan.
do this by identifying a team of technical representatives to “collaboratively
plan and carry out tasks such as modeling and analyses of a range of spill
levels and spill patterns as they agree is necessary to afford a basis for
identifying 2018 spring fish passage spill levels and spill patterns at each of
the eight lower Columbia River and lower Snake River dams,” while working with
the interagency Technical Management Team and others to complete the tasks.
team will take into account spill and gas caps, dam or safety issues, the
potential effects of spill levels and patterns on juvenile and adult salmon and
steelhead survival, and other factors identified by the Court’s Opinion and
Order, according to the joint filing.
will document the work and will advise the Court that “there are agreed-to
spring fish passage spill operations that may be incorporated into a proposed
injunction order, or advise the Court of any outstanding disagreements that may
necessitate the Court’s involvement to resolve. If necessary, the Court may
then set such procedures as it concludes are appropriate to resolve these
issues,” the filing says.
parties will file with the court a joint status report June 15, 2017, with a
draft available seven days ahead of time. Follow up in-person conferences will
occur in early August and late September.
status report will have (for each of the dams):
whether spill patterns for increased spill have been modeled, tested and/or
whether the parties have agreed to fish passage spill cap operations or
identified a biological or other constraint that warrants a dam-specific spill
operation below spill cap spill.
will also include a statement of the tasks completed and a schedule for
completing the remaining tasks, with the goal of completing all tasks needed to
reach consensus on a 2018 spill implementation plan by September 15, 2017.
a May 16 court filing, the federal defendants described their proposal for
notifying the court and plaintiffs about timely reviews of future capital
said in their filing that they would notify the plaintiffs of new capital
hydropower improvement projects, fish mitigation capital projects and other
non-power capital projects and expansions in ranges of $1 to $3 million,
greater than $3 million but less than $7 million, greater than $7 million but
less than $12 million and projects greater than $12 million. It will provide
this information within 30 days of when the budget request is publically
available through the President’s Budget.
addition to cost, the information provided to plaintiffs would include the
timing of project implementation, but it will not provide information on
hydropower maintenance projects or activities, or non-hydropower maintenance
projects or activities, the filing says.
must respond within 60 days of notification for each project.
earlier this month four members of the U.S. House of Representatives Northwest congressional
delegation delivered a letter to Bonneville Power Administrator Elliot Mainzer,
Secretary of the Army Robert Speer, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, objecting to the additional spill and
asking for detailed information on the cost of the region’s fish and wildlife
program and the cost of Simon’s order for more spill on ratepayers.
believe that the 2008 BiOp achieved consensus on a plan that has demonstrated
for several years that it is working to improve salmon recovery while still
allowing operation of the federal dams,” the letter says. “We are concerned
that plaintiffs’ continued advocacy for additional spill or preventing needed
maintenance of the dams as requested in the injunctions is not only
unscientifically based, it is likely to be counterproductive.”
May 2 letter was signed by eastern Washington Republicans Cathy McMorris
Rodgers and Dan Newhouse and western Oregon Democrats Peter DeFazio and Kurt
counter letter from 31 conservation and commercial and recreational fishing
groups sent to the four U.S. House representatives May 17 said that information
in their letter was “based on incomplete or misleading information.”
went on to say that the restoration of salmon populations is an “opportunity
for our region to invest in the economy, create family-wage jobs and improve
our quality of life and the health of our environment,” but that goal remains
letter reminded the representatives that Simon had rejected the current BiOp,
which was the fifth time a federal judge had done so.
spending by regional electricity customers and American taxpayers totaling $15B
- under the direction and guidance of the federal agencies that manage the
major Columbia and Snake river dams - not one of the thirteen salmon and
steelhead populations listed in the early 1990s as threatened and endangered
under the ESA has been delisted; most have shown little or no sign of
significant or sustained improvement.”
full letter is available at http://www.wildsalmon.org/images/stories/PDFs/congress/2017.Ltr.to.4MOCs.May17.final.pdf
CBB, April 7, 2017, “Court Order Requires Earlier Spill For Salmon In 2018;
Orders Design Study, Monitoring,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438675.aspx
CBB, January 6, 2017, “Comment Period Extended For Feds’ Scoping On New EIS For
Columbia/Snake River Hydro System,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438159.aspx
CBB, July 15, 2016, “Judge Gives Feds Nearly Five Years To Complete NEPA
Process For New Basin Salmon/Steelhead Recovery Plan,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437139.aspx
December 16, 2016, “Scoping Meetings On Basin Salmon/Steelhead EIS End; Next
Step Developing Alternatives For Evaluation,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438097.aspx
December 2, 2016, “Irrigators Petition Trump Transition Team For ‘God Squad’
Intervention In Salmon BiOp Remand,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438042.aspx
November 18, 2016, “Hundreds Turn Out For Lewiston Federal Scoping Meeting
Regarding Draft EIS For Snake River Dams,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437988.aspx
CBB, Oct. 7, 2016, “Agencies Seek Public ‘Scoping’ Comments For EIS Related To
New Basin Salmon/Steelhead Recovery Plan,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437702.aspx
CBB, May 6, 2016, “Federal Court Again Rejects Columbia Basin Salmon/Steelhead
Recovery Plan; Orders New BiOp By 2018,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436667