: Snake Dams are back on the table!
Idaho newspapers are reporting that federal judge James Redden has ruled that the lower Snake River dams breeching option can not be removed from consideration in the Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Plan. This ruling reverses NOAA's judgement that the dams were pre-existing structures in the river and that partial removal was off limits.
It's about time common sense has risen to the surface!
06-10-2005, 10:54 AM
This happened about a week or so ago and I think is great news. The judge better check under his car before he starts it.
The latest is that the Bush admin is working some closed door meetings with the OR, WA, and ID govenors to "work a deal" and considering WA budget short fall I can bet you the deal that could might be worked would involve money for the state and screwing of the fish.
Just my thoughts.
06-10-2005, 11:27 AM
Gotta say I share JJ's cynicism on this one, but will still hold out hope because of the Oregon gov's stance that these are OUR public resources and (environmental) quality of life being bargained with.
But he's right - the deals will all be worked out behind closed doors and we the Public will be notified after the ink has dried.
06-10-2005, 12:00 PM
I saw this report too about Redden including the possibility of breaching the dams in his preliminary "I might include breaching in my ruling" info he has released. However, if he does include it in his final ruling (which is the only one that really matters), it will be in conflict with the ruling of a Spokane Federal District Court judge's ruling (that was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last September or October), which said the effect the dams may or may not have on the fish runs cannot be determined with any accuracy; therefore, the dams and their operation are not in violation of the federal clean water act (which is what the Spokane case tried to use to get the dams removed or their operation changed).
It could be mighty interesting to see what happens if Redden does include breaching in his final ruling because I'm certain the appeal to the 9th Circuit Court will cite the Spokane judge's ruling and the upholding of it by the 9th Circuit Court.
On the surface, it appears like NOAA-F in stuck between a rock and a hard place with these two conflicting rulings by federal courts. On one hand NOAA-F cannot consider the dams and their effect of fish and on the other hand, they must.
The only resolution of this I can foresee is in the 9th Circuit Appeals Court. However, since environmental appeals by federal law are the exclusive province of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC., it may be a long time before this gets resolved.
Me thinks it is far too early to start the celebration about breaching the Snake dams given the conflicting orders NOAA-F is supposed to obey. I certainly wouldn't want to be them until these conflicting federal court rulings get resolved. Until they do, I don't think the fish are going to benefit at all; but the power companies and irrigators most likely will.
06-10-2005, 03:55 PM
The 9th Circuit may have ruled that the Snake dams are not in violation of the Clean Water Act. However, Redden's ruling pertains to the Endangered Species Act. Not considering the effects of the dams on endangered species hasn't been ruled on by the appeals courts yet, as far as I know. It could be that the dams do threaten the continued survival and recovery of ESA species, and it would be a violation of the ESA to fail to consider that. I think that's the jist of Redden's ruling - not sure, as I haven't actually read it all the way through.
Of course, even the 9th could rule that if NOAA determines that the Snake dams prevent survival and recovery, and should therefore be breeched. But there would remain further steps for appeal, i.e. CEQ - the infamous God Squad, which is presently populated by some pretty dam friendly folks. Ick! Not a pretty sight to imagine, and potentially a good reason to try to keep the issue at a lower level for a few years, even tho time is running out on these fish.
06-10-2005, 07:32 PM
I agree wholeheartedly with you; however, since NOAA-F must comply with both the Clean Waters Act ruling and the Endangered Species Act Ruling (and the 9th Circuit will probably have to rule which one of these is most important for NOAA-F to comply with), I wouldn't want to be in NOAA-F because no matter what they do, they are going to get slapped by one federal court or the other until this is resolved. And since there is the potential of the ESA ruling being filed in the 5th Circuit, it may ultimately take the Supreme Court to rule which is most important.
In the meantime, I suspect the farmers, irrigators, power companies, cities, etc. will file against NOAA-F to prevent any action on dam breaching or large modification of how they are operated. While those concerned about the fish will be filing to force changes in how the dams are operated and to keep NOAA-F from including dam operation our of their biological opinion and recovery plans.
Unfortunately, this means the fish still take it in the shorts.
06-10-2005, 11:37 PM
Retired Idaho Senator John Peavey has been spearheading a movement among Idaho ranchers and farmers. He believes that all the methods being used to save salmon is a complete waste, particularly the flushing of smolt down the Snake and Columbia. He is trying to get the Idaho farmers and ranchers to get behind the breaching.
06-11-2005, 03:47 PM
If he can pull this off, it would be a big help toward getting at least some of the lower Snake dams breached, if not all of them. Good on him and thanks for letting us know about his efforts.
06-11-2005, 10:27 PM
Here is the complete text of Peavey's comments. The Idaho ranchers may be a "strange bedfellow" for us. But hell, let's worry about it after the dams are gone!
Twin Falls Times News
March 22, 2005
Dams remain the hurdle for salmon
As a rancher and former state senator, I am well acquainted with the various water issues facing the state of Idaho today.
Earlier this month, I testified before the House Resources Committee in support of bills needed to ratify the Nez Perce-Snake River Basin Adjudication agreement. Since our state was short-sighted years ago, I believe this agreement is the best chance we have now for protecting Idaho's agricultural economy.
At the same time, I urged legislators to begin negotiations to address one of the most critical issues surrounding Idaho's water woes -- salmon recovery.
Why is Idaho water being used to defend four dams in Washington State?
The Nez Perce-Snake River Basin Adjudication agreement calls for more than 427,000 acre feet of to be drained from the upper Snake River basin to flush young wild salmon downstream through four dams on the Lower Snake River. Flushing the fish to save the dams has been tried for many years and has failed. The wild fish are still in serious decline.
It is extremely important to keep this water in Idaho if an economic Armageddon is to be avoided. Thousands of acres of productive farm land could easily revert to sagebrush if calls for Idaho water to protect salmon persist. Meanwhile, the 427,000 acre feet of water could be used to quiet farmer vs. farmer lawsuits and help recharge the diminished East Snake Plain Aquifer, the source of these legal battles.
As far as Idaho's salmon are concerned, the four Washington State dams are the problem.
Our ranch once had a U.S. Forest Service sheep grazing allotment on Marsh Creek near Stanley. It was a major salmon spawning stream and is a tributary of the Middle Fork of the Salmon. In the 1950s and '60s, there were 20 bands of sheep and several cattle allotments in the area, and lots and lots of fish. But after the four Lower Snake River dams were built, the fish all but disappeared, and today, there is almost no grazing in the Marsh Creek area.
The solution to the salmon problem and our water woes is obvious -- take the Lower Snake dams down. If we do this, we can save Idaho's salmon, and there will be no need for "flush" water from southern Idaho or Dworshak Reservoir. Take the dams down, and we can build Idaho's salmon fishing economy and save farms in southern Idaho.
But back to my original question: Why should Idaho water be used to defend Washington state dams? Why are Idaho's people -- who caused none of the problem -- being asked to shoulder the entire burden of bringing the salmon back?
I asked these questions in a large meeting of farmers last year and one of Idaho's leading water experts responded that President Bush would not approve breaching the dams. If the issue has become so political, our leadership should go to Washington, D.C., and remind the president that Idaho is a red state and Washington State is a blue one.
History will not judge us kindly if we lose our farmers and our small towns, ruin the state's economy and lose the salmon, too. But I am afraid that is where we are headed.
Such disasters can be averted, though, if our leaders begin working in earnest to achieve removal of the Lower Snake Dams -- a solution that will save our farms, small towns and the fish.
John Peavey of Carey is a third-generation sheep and cattle rancher and a farmer who irrigates a portion of his ranches in Minidoka, Lincoln and Blaine counties. He served 21 years in the Idaho State Senate, where he was a senior member of the Resources Committee.
Thanks leland for the info. All I can say once again it is happening across the entire rural USA. Many citizens we never thought would defend the environment are defending it and their ranks are really growing. These are not people who are going to become liberals any time soon but I will say that my job brings me to many meetings with these folks and they are seeing the BS they had been led to believe.
These folks, ranchers, farmers and the people who support those life styles have always loved the land anyway most of them and they will become our most powerful force at defending the land in the future. Farmers and ranchers only get taken once and the federal gov. big ag, cattle industry, water industry, and gas and oil industry made many promises to these hard working Americans and then burned them big time.
We must have patience with our rural small land owners and suport them and we must continue to press forward against the likes of industrial farming, the big power companies and the gas and oil companies who don't give a darn about anything but short time profits.
If we can show the importance of removing the dams and get the financial support for those who will be most effected by removal then we will win and it won't be that far in the future. If your under fifty you will see it happen in your life time. Yup a free and wild Snake River not only in Washington State but throughout Idaho too.
After six years of drought the water shortage in Idaho is critical. Upper Snake irrigators, where all the potatoes are grown, are suing each other over water rights and canal irrigators, who have older water rights and flood irrigate, have shut down other farmers who pump water from wells because the aquifer is getting so low. It is a very critical situation for these people.
The old joke that there's been more people shot at for messin' with a farmer's headgate than with his wife has some veracity.
You can imagine how these folks hate to see the Feds flush stored water downstream to help fish. If Peavey can convince them that dam removal would eliminate this more farmers would be in favor of it.
Yesterday the local radio station reported that Idaho's Governer and politicians were upset over Redden's ruling. Our Senator, Larry Craig, proclaimed that spilling water for salmon would result in a B.P.A. increase of 2% in electrical rates for Idahoans. In the next sentence the reporter said that only 12% of the state receives it's power from the lower Snake dams.
The Honorable Senator from Idaho wouldn't urinate in the river if he thought it would help the fish.