Environmental groups challenge new Columbia biological opinion

A national coalition led by dam removal advocates has filed suit in U.S. District Court, again challenging NOAA Fisheries’ biological opinion for operating the Columbia River Basin hydropower system.

The coalition complaint, filed June 17 in Portland, seeks review of the 2008 �biop� for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act.

In the biop, released in May, NOAA Fisheries declared that breaching four lower Snake River hydropower dams operated by the Corps of Engineers is not necessary to protect and recover threatened salmon stocks. (HNN 5/6/08)

The coalition criticizes the plan for failing to include significant changes to the region’s federal hydro system, and for ignoring the four dams on the lower Snake River that it says do the most harm to the basin’s endangered salmon.

�Today we are taking the only action we can against another legally inadequate plan from the Bush administration,� Todd True, a lawyer for Earthjustice, said. �Despite two years of work and a clear warning from the federal courts that the administration cannot ignore the Endangered Species Act, we now have a plan that is worse than ever.�

Plaintiffs include American Rivers, the Federation of Fly Fishers, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, and Trout Unlimited. Others are Columbia Riverkeeper, Idaho Rivers United, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Northwest Sportfishing Industry, NW Energy Coalition, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, and Washington Wildlife Federation

U.S. District Judge James Redden voided NOAA Fisheries’ previous �biop,� the 2004 opinion, which found “no jeopardy” to salmon and steelhead listed for protection. Should the new biop fail to meet his expectations, Redden warned he could order agency actions that might include removal of the dams — 634.6-MW Ice Harbor, 810-MW Little Goose, 810-MW Lower Granite, and 810-MW Lower Monumental.

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