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Latest CBB News > Chapter II

EXCERPT: Chapter II

Salmon and Hydro: An Account of Litigation over Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinions for Salmon and Steelhead, 1991-2009

II. 1995-1998: Reasonable And Prudent Alternatives, Spread The Risk, Long-Term Configuration, Adaptive Management; River Governance; Regional Parties Stake Their Positions; A BiOp Finally Passes Legal Muster

 . . .The parties gathered before Judge Marsh on March 31, 1997 to argue a case (the challenge to the 1995 BiOp) that would influence the fate of the salmon and the operation of the federal Columbia River power system - flows, spills, drawdowns, power generation, navigation, irrigation – more than any other single event in the coming years.

“The Court,” said the plaintiffs in American Rivers vs. NMFS, “must intervene to enforce the law and create an opportunity for the kind of major changes widely recognized as necessary to protect listed salmon and required by law, but thus far beyond the reach of the defendants.”

Would Marsh take over management of river operations? Or would he hesitate to entangle his court in this web of creaky bureaucratic processes, clashing science, politics and polarized issues?

The briefings for the case had shown Marsh that in reality salmon recovery suffered most from the fact that nobody seemed to be in charge.

The Northwest’s salmon recovery managers disagreed on whether NMFS’ 1995 BiOp met the mandate of the Endangered Species Act.

They disagreed on NMFS’ implementation of the biological opinion and the federal government’s management of river operations.

They disagreed among themselves on flow, spill, smolt transportation and reservoir drawdowns. They disagreed on how and where to spend the half-billion dollars a year on basin salmon recovery. They even disagreed on which bureaucracy should be in charge of what, who should run the meetings, and who should set the agenda for those meetings.

In other words, name the subject and Judge Marsh found a dispute, and an inability by the parties to resolve that dispute. . . .

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INTRODUCTION

I. 1991-1995: Three ESA Listings, Four Biological Opinions, Five Court Challenges

II. 1995-1998: Reasonable And Prudent Alternatives, Spread The Risk, Long-Term Configuration, Adaptive Management; River Governance; Regional Parties Stake Their Positions; A BiOp Finally Passes Legal Muster

III. 1998-1999: More ESA Listings; A Supplemental Steelhead BiOp Guiding River Operations; Independent Science Advisory Board Weighs In On Smolt Transportation; Appeals Court Upholds 1995 BiOp; Supplemental BiOps On New Listings, Snake Water

IV. 1999-2004: Not Just Hydro, But All The ‘Hs’; Recovery In 48 years?; Mitigation Must Be Certain To Occur; Another BiOp Bites The Dust; A Remand; Corps Rules On Snake River Dam Removal

V. 2004-2008: A New BiOp Says No Jeopardy From Hydro Operations; A New ‘Environmental Baseline’; Redden Says No Again; Discretionary Actions vs. Non-Discretionary (Dams’ Existence); Court Runs The River; Upper Snake River Gets Own BiOp

VI. 2008-2009: A ‘Collaborative’ BiOp; New Fish Funding Agreements, New BiOp Support; Montana Finally Likes The Reservoir Plan; Earthjustice Says New Approach Inadequate; Oregon Left As Only State Opposed To BiOp; Should Independent Scientists Evaluate BiOp?; Parties To Litigation Grows; Clean Water Act Now An Issue; A New Round Of Briefings

VII. Conclusion: Rushing To Redden’s Finish Line



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