pcffa NEWS * * *
from the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations
Northwest Regional Office
PO Box 11170 * Eugene, OR *97440-3370
(541)689-2000 * *Fax:(541)689-2500

Distribution: ALL MEDIA * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *Release No: *PRNW-10-31-07

For More Info Contact: * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Release Date: 10/31/07

Glen Spain, PCFFA (541) 689-2000
Liz Hamilton, NSIA, (503) 631-8859
Alan Moore, Trout Unlimited, (503) 827-5700 x 10
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New Federal Plan for Columbia-Snake River Basin Fails
to Deliver Needed Improvements

October 31, 2007 *– San Francisco, CA – Commercial and recreational fishing industry groups from across the West Coast today joined conservation and river groups in urging Congress to protect and restore the resource upon which so much of their industries depend – Pacific Northwest wild salmon and steelhead, particularly in the Columbia River Basin.

Their comments came in response to the release of a new draft Biological Opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Services (aka NOAA Fisheries) that salmon advocates say fails to do enough to boost imperiled salmon runs in the seven-state Columbia-Snake River basin. *This is the fifth attempt by the Federal government to craft a viable Columbia basin salmon plan after four other failures since 1993. *The four prior attempts were each tossed out by various federal judges. *This fifth plan is the result of an earlier court-ordered rewrite of the 2004 federal salmon plan that was ruled illegal under the Endangered Species Act in May of 2005 by federal court Judge James Redden, a ruling that was soundly upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The Administration’s new plan not only deliberately ignores science, it ignores economics and the tens of thousands of people from the Pacific salmon states who rely on these fish for their livelihoods. We need abundant, harvestable populations of Columbia River salmon for long-term economic stability across the west coast. This Administration continues to ignore, if not completely abandon, that goal,” said Zeke Grader, Executive Director Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA). “Another failed salmon plan would be devastating to commercial fishermen from California to Alaska. *Unfortunately, this fifth attempt is based neither on sound science nor sound economics, and Congress must step in to ensure a future for our industry and our families.”

“This plan is a platinum-plated roadmap to extinction, and for the sportfishing community, that means more job losses and economic hardship,” said Liz Hamilton, Executive Director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association (NSIA). “Sport fishing supports tens of thousands of jobs throughout the West, yet this administration continues to treat fish and wildlife as an afterthought behind energy, development and other special interests, violating both the spirit and intent of the Endangered Species Act and the Northwest Power Act. We, and the courts, have called on the Administration to follow the law and follow the science to protect our jobs and the rural and coastal communities that depend on them. We now turn to Congress to do the same.”

While the new salmon plan (called a “Biological Opinion”), which would guide salmon recovery efforts in the Columbia and Snake River basin for the next decade, includes provisions for habitat restoration, hatchery production, and predator control, it doesn’t include any significant changes to the region's hydroelectric dams, in particular the four dams on the Lower Snake River that scientists say do the most harm to the basin’s endangered salmon and economists say are the least cost-effective.

“Science continues to tell us that upstream habitats and population genetics are suitable for survival of Snake River stocks. *What we don't have is reasonable passage through the hydrosystem,” said Dr. Jack Williams, Senior Scientist for Trout Unlimited. *“Time is slipping away for these upriver stocks and unfortunately this new plan falls far short of providing the needed help.”

The new salmon plan also fails to recommend any increases in the amount of water spilled over the dams to improve critical downstream migration, despite well-documented success of such court-ordered improvements last year.

Following a public comment period, a final version of the plan is expected in early 2008. *A time line of prior Columbia River salmon plan litigation is attached below.

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“[T]he process is seriously, ‘significantly,’ flawed because it is too heavily geared towards a status quo that has allowed all forms of river activity to proceed in a deficit situation – that is, relatively small steps, minor improvements and adjustments – when the situation literally cries out for a major overhaul. *In looking for what can be done to protect the species from jeopardy, NMFS and the action agencies have narrowly focused the attention on what the establishment is capable of handling with minimal disruption.”

-- Judge Malcolm Marsh, Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game vs. NMFS, 850 F. Supp. 886, 900 (D. Or. 1994), referring to the development of the federal Columbia River salmon 1993 Biological Opinion.

1993 Biological Opinion

Spring 1994 *-- U.S. District Judge Malcolm Marsh overturns the 1993 Biological Opinion (BiOp) in Idaho Department of Fish and Game v. NMFS, 850 F. Supp. 886 (D. Or. 1994) as “arbitrary and capricious” and ordered the federal agencies to rewrite it.
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1994-1998 Biological Opinion

Spring 1994 – NMFS issues a new Biological Opinion soon after Judge Marsh’s ruling that suffers from many of the same flaws (called the 1994-1998 BiOp). *It was later challenged in court and also tossed out as “arbitrary and capricious” shortly thereafter.

April 1997 – Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismisses challenges to the 1994-1998 Biological Opinion as moot in American Rivers v. NMFS, 126 F.2d 1118 (9th Cir. 1997) because it had been superseded by the 1995 Biological Opinion.

1995 Biological Opinion
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· * * * *Spring 1995 – NMFS issues 1995 BiOp – fishing and conservation groups file challenge.

April 1997 – Judge Marsh upholds NMFS 1995 Biological Opinion, but this one-year opinion has now become moot.

Spring 1999 – Ninth Circuit upholds 1995 Biological Opinion, but by this time the Administration has acknowledged its failures, and it has been withdrawn in favor of developing a new one in 2000.

2000 Biological Opinion

December 2000 – NMFS issues 2000 Biological Opinion.

Spring 2001 – fishing and conservation groups challenge 2000 Biological Opinion.

May 2003 – U.S. District Court Judge James Redden overturns 2000 Biological Opinion as “arbitrary and capricious,” and gives agency 1 ˝ years to rewrite plan – NWF v. NMFS, 254 F.Supp.2d 1196 (D. Or. 2003).

Summer 2004 – U.S. District Court Judge James Redden enjoins the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ attempts to curb water releases that help juvenile salmon migrate over the dams.

2004 Biological Opinion

November 2004 – NMFS releases its 2004 Biological Opinion, which fails to consider impacts of dams by classifying dams as “part of the environmental baseline,” abandons recovery as a standard and concludes that dams no longer jeopardize salmon and steelhead in the Columbia basin.

December 2004 – Conservation and Fishing groups challenge 2004 BiOp as seriously flawed.

May 2005 –U.S. District Court Judge James Redden overturns 2004 BiOp, ruling it “arbitrary and capricious, and orders it rewritten.
June 2005 – U.S. District Court Judge James Redden orders Army Corps of Engineers to release additional water over tops of dams to help juvenile salmon migration as an interim measure in lieu of a valid Biological Opinion.

July 2005 – Ninth Circuit upholds district court injunction requiring releases of additional water over dams, NWF v. NMFS, 418 F.3d 971 (9th Cir. 2005).

October 2005 – Order on Remand by Judge Redden ordering federal agencies to develop a new Biological Opinion within 1 year, including consideration of impacts of dams, under close Court supervision. *After several delays, this Plan was filed on October 31, 2007.