Sinking the Salmon Plan

On May 26, federal court judge James Redden ruled, for the second time, that the federal salmon plan for the Columbia and Snake Rivers is unlawful (see "American Rivers," In Brief, July/ August 2000). In May 2003, Judge Redden had asked the Bush administration to rewrite the first plan.

Redden takes issue with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s approach to the protection of salmon, its analysis of the critical habitat of the fish and the federal agency’s reference to dams as part of the immutable natural landscape. "The court also put in place an injunction that requires some of the dams to operate differently in order to protect the fish," says Todd True, Earthjustice’s lead attorney on the case.

Scientists have cited the rivers" dams as the leading killers of salmon and steelhead. "The science is very clear; removing four low-value dams will assure the recovery of the salmon population," says Jan Hasselman, an attorney with the National Wildlife Federation.

"Our conservative viewpoint is that those fish are worth $100 million, and we would have lost the fishery without this decision," says Trey Carscadon, president of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. The judge will now consider a request from plaintiffs to establish specific protections for salmon migrating through the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the summer.