January 28, 2014
The latest version of the federal operating plan for the Columbia and Snake rivers is déjà vu all over again for many of the parties wondering what would emerge from a 2011 court order to try again, and report back in 2014.
Earlier this month the Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was back with a plan that says continued reliance on habitat and tributary improvements would ensure the survival of salmon and steelhead species in the Columbia River system.
The point of the biological opinion is to make sure that operation of the dams and the federal power system do not compromise fish survival.
U.S. District Court Judge James Redden, who had knocked down three earlier versions of the plan, rejected the 2011 plan because it put the economic interests of river operations above saving endangered fish. The plan was too narrowly centered on habitat mitigation, and lacked reliable, aggressive actions, the judge ruled.
One of those points was additional flow over the dams in the spring and summer to help scoot salmon safely toward the ocean.
Critics of the latest plan, including Joseph Bogaard, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, do not see a robust role for spill in the new plan.
In 2011, Redden said the plan was adequate for the near term, but not through the life of the plan, through 2018. He wanted hard and fast plans and measurable results.