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Latest CBB News > Chapter III

EXCERPT: Chapter III

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

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

. . .At its core, the 1998 steelhead BiOp, considered a supplement to the 1995 BiOp for Snake River wild salmon, reaffirmed NMFS’ commitment to “spreading the risk” by putting some fish in barges and trucks and moving others with spill, with the hopes of determining which passage brings home more adult salmon.

Fisheries scientists believed that 2 to 6 percent of migrating smolts must return as adults for a salmon run to be sustainable. Adult returns approaching 6 percent offered a chance for rebuilding a run. For example, in spring of 1997 about 90,000 wild Snake River salmon left Idaho, eastern Oregon and eastern Washington for the ocean. If only 1,800 returned as spawning adults in 1999 and 2000, the runs would be approaching sustainable levels. About 5,400 adults would be needed to rebuild these populations.

Transportation was the leading fish passage strategy since the 1970s. Adult return numbers for both wild and hatchery Snake River fish did not come even close to the necessary 2 percent to achieve recovery – hence, the ESA listings.

Electronic tagging (PIT-tag) data from 1988 to 1994 showed Smolt-To-Adult Return Rates (SARs) below 1 percent, with the highest about .9 percent for hatchery steelhead. In 1994, 14,014 wild, ESA-listed chinook were PIT-tagged, and only 13 returned as adults, for an SAR of .09 percent.

However, NMFS’ Stelle, in a Jan. 7, 1998 speech to the Columbia River Alliance, said the SARs for the 1995 class were “around 1.5 percent to 2 percent, the low end of the recovery spectrum with our strongest year class, good water years and questionable ocean conditions.”

It should be noted that much debate raged over these SAR issues, with some saying the numbers showed transportation will never recover salmon runs, and others saying the runs would be in an even worse state in the Snake River absent transportation. . . .

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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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