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Law Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center (PEAC)

Rohlf and Team Now Three for Three in Protecting Salmon

August 10, 2011

In an opinion strongly criticizing operations of federal dams in the Columbia and Snake Rivers due to their impact on imperiled salmon and steelhead, Judge James Redden last week ordered the agencies responsible for managing the region’s hydropower system to go back to the drawing board. The judge allowed current plans for operating the dams to continue for another two years – with additional spills of water past the dams to aid sea-ward migration of young fish. The ruling sets a January 2014 deadline for the National Marine Fisheries Service to devise a more effective means of protecting fish protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Judge Redden chastised federal power managers for “abruptly changing course, abandoning previous [plans for protecting salmon], and failing to follow through with their commitments to hydropower modifications proven to increase survival.” With his efforts since 1989 to protect salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin, PEAC attorney Dan Rohlf is intimately familiar with this history. He worked with Earthjustice on successful legal challenges to the last three inadequate federal salmon plans, including the most recent victory.

While the judge’s ruling pointed to federal agencies’ vague commitments to improve salmon habitat, it suggested that the agencies may need to consider far-reaching modifications to dam operations and even the dams themselves in drawing up an adequate plan to recover fish runs. PEAC will be there to ensure that an effective plan emerges and is implemented; with 22 years of work to protect Columbia Basin behind them, Rohlf and PEAC don’t plan to end their commitment to salmon recovery anytime soon.

The judge’s opinion drew regional and national media coverage, including the following stories:

U.S. Judge Rejects Latest Salmon Recovery Plan in Science

Federal Judge Rules for Columbia and Snake River Salmon in The Sacramento Bee

Judge Rejects Salmon Protection Plan as Too Vague in The Seattle Times