Feds: Break Columbia River impasse

“We want to ensure our existing and future recovery plans are complete and integrated,” Barry Thom, deputy regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wrote in a letter to the river’s competing, often-litigating interests.

It’s a move born out of failure and frustration. Successive administrations have produced five “biological opinions” on how to improve once-mighty, now-imperiled salmon populations in the Columbia River system — particularly salmon runs that spawn far up the Snake River in Idaho.

One by one, the plans were rejected by now-retired U.S. District Judge James Redden. The latest opinion — an Obama administration plan that closely resembled a Bush administration plan — was turned down because of its vague assumptions about restoring fish habitat.

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