American Rivers applauds ruling in Upper Snake dam operations case

For immediate release May 23, 2006 Decision opens door to basin-wide solution that will recover salmon, protect farmers and communities Seattle -- In a strongly worded ruling today critical of federal dam managers’ repeated attempts to avoid addressing the harm inflicted by federal dams on Snake River salmon and steelhead protected under the Endangered Species Act, district court Judge James Redden invalidated a plan for operating 22 Bureau of Reclamation dams on the Upper Snake River. Judge Redden ordered the federal government to conduct a complete analysis of whether all federal dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers, when considered in the aggregate, jeopardize Snake River salmon and steelhead. American Rivers applauded the decision, saying it will force federal dam managers to honestly examine the options for returning abundant wild salmon and steelhead to thousands of miles of rivers and streams in the Snake River Basin. Michael Garrity of American Rivers made the following statement: “The federal government’s repeated attempts to keep Northwest citizens and taxpayers in the dark regarding what is necessary to recover Snake River salmon and steelhead reflects a lack of leadership. Snake River salmon and steelhead are vital to the health of communities from the coast of Oregon and Washington to central Idaho. “This decision exposes the inadequacy of the federal government’s salmon plan and lays the groundwork for a real solution that will recover salmon, protect farmers and communities, and ensure a stable, reliable Northwest energy system. “Today’s ruling will make it much harder for the federal government to keep ignoring salmon recovery measures that have far more potential than the current ineffective, wasteful strategies that protect the status quo but not salmon and salmon-dependent communities. “It’s time for federal government to honestly assess how much water the Bureau’s upper Snake River storage reservoirs must provide to protect salmon and steelhead as they pass the four high-cost, low-value lower Snake River dams. This will clarify the true cost of trying to recover Snake River salmon with the lower Snake River dams in place, and bring the trade-offs into focus. “We believe that there is a solution that allows Idaho farmers to keep their water and that recovers Snake River salmon and steelhead, and it is removing the four high-cost, low-value lower Snake dams. Those who insist that these four dams remain in place are increasing the likelihood that more Idaho water will be needed to help salmon get downstream. “Replacing the services of the four lower Snake dams would likely be much less expensive than other potential salmon recovery actions, including sending more Idaho water downstream to help flush young salmon more safely past the dams. At the end of the day, it will become clear that restoring a free-flowing lower Snake River makes a lot more sense for salmon, steelhead and Northwest communities”