PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Federal authorities defended their latest plan for mitigating damage to salmon and steelhead imperiled by hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Basin.

In oral arguments in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, the government argued its approach is resulting in more salmon surviving at dams, juvenile fish migrating faster to the ocean and record numbers of fish returning to restored habitat.

But conservation and fishing groups, Oregon and the Nez Perce tribe, which challenged the plan in court, said it’s deeply flawed. They said it won’t lead to the recovery of wild fish populations, because many have not achieved the promised benefits and are barely hanging on. Most of the returning fish were artificially bred in hatcheries.

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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