One of the most recognizable names in Columbia River basin salmon recovery circles, retired U.S. District Court Judge James A. Redden, died last week (March 31) at age 92.
For more than 8 years, 2003-2011, Redden presided over the long-running Columbia River basin salmon recovery litigation that has pitted a coalition of fishing and conservation groups against the federal government but has also involved tribes, utility interests and power users, irrigators, navigators and others with a vested interest in the fish and/or other river resources.
At issue were Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinions developed by NOAA Fisheries in official Endangered Species Act “consultation” with federal agencies that operate the Columbia-Snake River Power System.
BiOps are required under the ESA to evaluate whether federal actions, such as the operation of the dams, jeopardize listed stocks. A total of 13 listed salmon and steelhead stocks spawn in the Columbia River basin.
“I struck the 2000 BiOp, and the 2004 BiOp, and the 2008/2011 BiOp,” said a retired Redden, in a 2012 interview. Assigned the case in Februrary 2003, Judge Redden in May, 2003 granted motions for summary judgment invalidating the 2000 strategy, which was replaced by the 2004 BiOp.
In May, 2005 Redden declared the 2004 BiOp “arbitrary and capricious.” It was eventually replaced by the 2008 BiOp, which was supplemented in 2010.
Redden ruled in August, 2011 that the 2008/2010 FCRPS BiOp, which was to prevail for 10 years, was illegal and ordered that its legal flaws be corrected by Jan. 1, 2014.
In a Nov. 22, 2011 e-mail to litigants, Redden said he had asked that the lawsuit over the validity of the federal salmon protection strategy be assigned to another judge.
“At our last meeting I indicated that I would step down prior to the filing of the 2014 BiOp,” he said in the e-mail.
Redden said he stepped down to allow the new judge “to review the history of this matter before the 2014 BiOp is filed.”
“I will follow this matter with great interest,” Redden wrote.
The case in 2011 was reassigned to Judge Michael H. Simon.
“Jim was a superb judge — and a superb person,’’ Simon, who is still the presiding judge over BiOp litigation, said last week in an email to other judges announcing Redden’s passing. “He also had such a great reputation as Oregon Attorney General. Jim was special and will be missed.’’
Redden was nominated to U. S. District Court, District of Oregon, by Jimmy Carter in December 1979 and received his commission on Feb. 20, 1980. He served as chief judge, 1990-1995, and assumed senior status on March 13, 1995.
Judge Redden was involved in private practice in Medford, Ore., from 1956-1972 and during that time served as an Oregon state representative (1963-1969) and as House minority leader (1967-1969). He was chairman of the state Public Employee Relations Board from 1969-1972; state treasurer for Oregon in 1973-1976, and state attorney general from1977-1980.
Redden was born in Springfield, Mass., and attended Boston College and Boston College Law School. He moved to Oregon in 1955.
He died at an adult foster care home, where he was being treated for congestive heart failure, according to a story in the Portland Tribune.