Federal Judge Rules to Protect Fish Populations in the Pacific Northwest
August 7, 2011
In a victory for fish and other wildlife, a federal judge has remanded a habitat mitigation plan that fails to protect endangered salmon and other federally listed species in the Columbia and Snake rivers of the Pacific Northwest. This decision affects the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS); a system comprised of 14 sets of hydroelectric dams, powerhouses, and associated reservoirs. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries is required to issue periodic biological opinions (“BiOp”) to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation to insure that endangered salmon and other federally listed species are not being significantly harmed by FCRPS. In his decision, federal judge James A. Redden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon determined that the 2008 and 2010 BiOp for the power system failed to identify specific mitigation plans that would protect fish populations and their habitat beyond 2013, and ordered NOAA Fisheries to develop a new BiOp to be implemented in 2014 and beyond. The court also ordered NOAA Fisheries to file annual reports detailing the progress of their biological opinion, with opportunities for parties to comment on the reports.
Sierra Club has long been engaged in comprehensive salmon and steelhead recovery efforts throughout the Pacific Northwest. In both 2001 and 2004, Sierra Club and its allies, represented by Earthjustice, successfully challenged the biological plans for FCPRS. The 2004 challenge led to an improved spill plan for the dam system that helped produce some of the highest survival rates for juvenile salmon recently recorded in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Judge Redden upheld the spill plan in his latest decision.
See other "Promoting Resilient Habitats" cases.