Administration Moves to Withhold Water Needed by Salmon

The government hasn't given up in its quest to sacrifice the future of salmon in the Snake & Columbia rivers in order to please an elite group of river users.


Todd True, Earthjustice 206-343-7340 x30

“The Corps of Engineers today asked the Ninth Circuit to overturn an injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge James Redden last week to protect young salmon migrating down the Columbia and Snake Rivers in August. The agency’s decision to fight this ruling is a slap in the face to fishing communities, native American tribes, and conservationists as well as everyone else that has worked to restore wild salmon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. More than that, it reflects a determination to put a small amount of money — perhaps a dime a month off residential electric bills — ahead of restoring sustainable wild salmon runs. This approach serves a very narrow set of river user interests and ignores the broad determination of the people of the Northwest to bring sustainable wild salmon runs back to their rivers.”

“The Corps’ request to the Ninth Circuit to overturn Judge Redden’s decision would allow the agency to withhold water needed to flush juvenile salmon out to sea. Officials estimate that up to a half-million young salmon — some protected by the Endangered Species Act — will perish if the water is withheld. The Corps of Engineers wants to hold back the water to generate electricity later in the summer. The release of this water was ordered last week after the Court concluded that the plan to curtail water releases likely violates federal law.”

“Of all the millions of dollars spent trying to rescue vanishing salmon runs in these rivers, one of the most effective technique has been this release of water at just the right time — which is now. To withhold the water from these fish is bad resource management, bad economics, and bad environmental policy. It is also illegal.

“The government’s decision to ask the Ninth Circuit to overturn Judge Redden’s injunction sends an unfortunate message to the people of the Northwest: this administration thinks a half million salmon ‘ain’t worth a dime.’ That narrow view is well outside the mainstream of what people in this region want.”

Todd True, an attorney in the Seattle office of Earthjustice, has battled in court for many years on behalf of the salmon.

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