Federal Court Rules in Favor of Salmon Recovery in the Columbia
The ruling opens the door for much-needed recovery efforts in the Mainstem Columbia and Snake Rivers that will have positive impacts on salmon and steelhead populations.
Oregon City, OR – The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association is thrilled to learn that the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon issued a ruling that opens the door for meaningful salmon and steelhead recovery efforts to take place throughout the Columbia Basin. The Court ruled on Wednesday that the Federal Government’s most recent plan to recover salmon (the Biological Opinion or Bi-Op) violates the Endangered Species Act for not doing enough to improve fish runs.
The Court sided with a coalition of plaintiffs in this case, including conservation groups, clean energy advocates, the Nez Perce Tribe, the State of Oregon, and NSIA. In the ruling, Judge Michael Simon points out that salmon and steelhead populations have not seen significant improvements for decades, yet the Federal Government continues to focus their efforts on habitat mitigation projects without accounting for climate change or the impacts of dams on smolt and adult fish passage.
“We cannot be more excited for this opportunity to enact meaningful recovery efforts for Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead. Last summer’s hot water killed off thousands upon thousands of returning salmon and left anglers and the businesses that support them sitting on the sidelines for months. Our precious fish deserve better and the hard-working men and women of our region’s sportfishing industry deserve some assurance that managers will implement the necessary steps to keep our fisheries viable” says Dan Cherry, Communications Director of NSIA.
In Wednesday’s ruling, Judge Simon ordered a new Biological Opinion and full National Environmental Policy Act analysis that complies with the law by March 1st, 2018. There have long been calls for the removal of the lower dams on the Snake River, and there is evidence showing immediate benefits on smolt survival by simply increasing spill during their outmigration.
While habitat restoration is a crucial part of long-term salmon recovery, NSIA is glad to see the Court acknowledge that it is not the only part. We are due for the federal government to review hydromanagement practices in hopes of producing more responsible and sustainable water usage with the future of our salmon in mind.