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Salmon Plan Deserves a Chance

by Editorial Board
The Daily News, October 12, 2009

U.S. District Judge James Redden finished his review of the Obama administration's strategy for saving Pacific Northwest salmon a couple of weeks ago, and invited objections from environmental opponents of the plan. We await the Portland judge's ruling with some apprehension. It's difficult to be optimistic about the survival of the current administration's plan, when it so closely resembles the plan completed last year by the previous administration -- a strategy little changed from one rejected by Redden in 2007.

Though it might spell the Obama plan's legal defeat, the similarity of the two administrations' approaches to salmon recovery is to be applauded. Two years ago, the Bush administration submitted an aggressive strategy for salmon recovery that, nevertheless, recognized the irrigation needs of farmers and attempted to moderate the burden shouldered by hydroelectric power consumers.

Redden's dismissal of the initial Bush plan as inadequate was baffling. The Bonneville and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had committed to a comprehensive, 10-year salmon recovery plan that would cost Northwest ratepayers a not insignificant $6 billion. Many involved in that recovery effort doubted the usefulness of the court-ordered spills. One certainty, however, was that the spills would raise the cost of salmon recovery for ratepayers. The BPA estimated they would result in $7 million in lost revenue. Still, Redden rejected the plan as inadequate.

The Obama administration has adopted most of the previous administration's revised plan. And like the Bush administration before it, the current administration is catching criticism from both left and right.

Nicole Cordan, legal and policy director of the Save Our Salmon coalition, dismissed the Obama plan as a repeat of the Bush plan. She told Associated Press writer William McCall that, "They adopted Bush-era science and politics." Other environmental groups complained to The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver about one of the few deviations from the Bush plans -- a willingness to study the possibility of dam breaching in the future if the salmon recovery strategy isn't working. They say that's not enough. Critics on the right say that's too much. U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, criticized the Obama administration for including a dam breaching option even as a last resort.

Taking fire from both sides sometimes indicates that you've got it about right. We believe that to be the case with the Obama administration's salmon recovery plan. Frankly, we had not expected one so balanced from an administration so critical of its predecessor's environmental policies. Unfortunately, a balanced approach to salmon recovery has not been well-received in Judge Redden's court.

UgottaBkidding wrote on Oct 12, 2009 8:09 AM:
"I wouldn't be so quick to give the US District judge so much credit as to making his judgement on the proposal as much as who is proposing it. We may find that he is simply more supportive of the current administration. After all, it just won the Heisman."

Atrucker wrote on Oct 12, 2009 12:19 PM:
"The judge is trying to do what is right for the salmon, but no action will kill them just as fast. The power company could care less about the fish. If they did grand coulee would not be there. The judge is wanting all the players to make the right decision for the fish. U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, has been nothing but a stick in the mud, and caused more harm with his stubborn behavior. He does not understand that a majority rule vote will over rule any stand he takes."

mole wrote on Oct 12, 2009 3:00 PM:
"Fish ladders!!! Grand Coulee has none! Do the dams on the Snake have any! Try building the ladders and see what happens. Just a thought."

Editorial Board
Salmon Plan Deserves a Chance
The Daily News, October 12, 2009

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