Looks like the Assminstration’s losing streak will continue for a while.
A federal judge in Oregon ruled Thursday that the Bush administration had arbitrarily limited and skewed its analysis of the harm that 14 federal dams cause to endangered Columbia and Snake River salmon and steelhead.
As a result, Judge James A. Redden of Federal District Court ruled, the administration had shirked its duty to ensure that government actions were not likely to jeopardize the survival of the species.
The ruling came in a challenge by environmentalists, fishing groups and Indian tribes to the administration’s determination that the harm the hydropower dams were posing to the young salmon and steelhead could be remedied over the next 10 years by $6 billion in improvements to the dams, including spillways designed to get the fish through safely.
The ruling comes at a moment when unexpectedly low returns of spring Chinook salmon to their spawning grounds to produce the next generation have caused great concern among fishing interests.
It was the third time that federal courts in Portland have rejected the fisheries services analysis of how federal actions might affect the fish and what could be done. The first two were in the Clinton administration. The second, completed shortly before George W. Bush was inaugurated, included the possibility of dam removal, as a last resort, to protect the fish.
The Bush administration’s biological opinion last fall treated the dams as an immutable part of the landscape. The environmental and tribal groups that had objected to that opinion embraced the ruling.
John Kober, wildlife program manager for the National Wildlife Federation, said in a telephone interview: “We applaud this decision. What the Bush administration was trying to do was essentially rewrite the Endangered Species Act by ignoring the most egregious impact to species, such as salmon in this case, on a technicality, discretion.”
Charles Hudson, a spokesman for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, which represents the four tribes with treaty rights to fish in the rivers, said in an interview, “, “He takes on, head-on, the Bush administration’s attempt to rewrite recovery, federal recovery policy on the Columbia River.”