A national coalition of commercial and sport fishermen, conservationists and clean energy and taxpayer advocates are challenging the latest Bush administration plan for continuing to operate federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers at the expense of wild salmon, calling it a slap in the face to fishermen, fishing families, and coastal communities.
"Today we are taking the only action we can against another legally inadequate plan from the Bush administration," said Todd True, Senior Managing Attorney for Earthjustice in Seattle, Washington. "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. Our only option is to ask the courts to intervene again, hold the government accountable, and require it to obey the law."
In addition to filing litigation today, the groups are also calling on congressional leadership for legislative solutions to the declining salmon populations Columbia-Snake and other West Coast rivers that have contributed to unprecedented salmon declines and fishery closures on the West Coast.
"After so many failed plans, we obviously cannot rely on the Bush administration to help restore salmon in the Pacific Northwest," said Debbie Sease, Conservation Director for Sierra Club in Washington, D.C. "Today we are urging our leaders in Congress to step up with legislation that will authorize removal of four outdated dams on the Snake River and provide real long-term solutions to the salmon declines that have left people and the environment bearing the brunt of the government’s failures."
Among those hardest hit by the West Coast salmon crisis are fishermen, whose livelihoods and family businesses have been harmed by repeated fishery closures and cutbacks in recent years. Fishermen are also among the plaintiffs in the legal challenge being brought against the Bush administration’s federal salmon plan.
"The administration’s plan not only deliberately ignores science, it overlooks the tens of thousands of people on the West Coast who rely on these fish for their jobs. Without abundant, harvestable populations of salmon we can forget about long-term economic stability," said Pietro Parravano, president of the Institute for Fisheries Resources and commercial fisherman from Half Moon Bay, California. "This administration has abandoned fishermen. It’s time for Congress to step in and ensure a future for our industry and our families."
The new litigation also coincides with the culmination of the Save Our Wild Salmon National Road Show that has traveled to 11 states and more than 30 cities to bring attention to the West Coast salmon crisis.
"What’s happening on the West Coast is a complete disaster," said Nate Grader, co-director of the Wild Salmon Road Show from San Francisco. "For the last two months, I’ve been traveling across this country talking to people from Nevada to New York about the salmon crisis. They are totally blown away by the economic devastation from these salmon declines, but they’re even more outraged by the failure of the federal government to take meaningful action to help communities that are hurting. Congress needs to listen to that message and show some leadership."
The newest salmon plan from the administration, released on May 5, is the latest in a long history of failure by federal agencies to protect and restore wild salmon throughout the West. National conservation, fishing and taxpayer advocates have criticized the plan’s lack of science-based analysis.
"The new plan doesn’t suggest even a single new action to address long-term impacts from climate change," said John Kostyack, executive director of Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming for National Wildlife Federation in Washington, D.C. "Science tells us that the warming waters on the West Coast are making salmon populations even more vulnerable to other threats they’re facing in the Columbia River Basin, such as the four outdated lower Snake River dams. It’s unacceptable that the administration is ignoring the best science we have."
Three of the last four federal plans for the Columbia and Snake River have been found inadequate and illegal in federal court. U.S. District Court Judge James Redden in Portland soundly rejected the federal government’s 2004 salmon plan and has indicated that "serious consequences" for federal agencies and hydro-system operations would follow if this newest plan did not follow the law and address the needs of salmon.
Despite this history of failure, the new salmon plan calls for cutting several key salmon protection measures and comes with a price tag of more than half a billion dollars per year. While it includes some provisions for habitat, hatchery production, and predator control, it calls for no significant changes to the region’s federal hydrosystem and ignores the four dams on the lower Snake River that do the most harm to the basin’s endangered salmon.
Read the complaint