Latest federal plan for Columbia salmon challenged

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 17, 2014 at 6:18 pm •  Published: June 17, 2014
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GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Conservation groups and salmon advocates have challenged the Obama administration's latest plan for making Columbia Basin dams safe for salmon.

The challenge was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service, which oversees salmon protection, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operate the dams. It was the seventh challenge since the lawsuit was originally filed in 2001.

Joseph Bogaard of Save Our Wild Salmon said the plan is "virtually indistinguishable" from the one overturned by a federal court three years ago.

A federal judge rejected that plan because it relied too heavily on habitat-restoration plans that were not specific.

Bogaard said efforts to develop a better plan through collaboration, rather than litigation, were rebuffed.

NOAA Fisheries said in a statement that the agency has made "clear and demonstrable progress in rebuilding salmon and steelhead runs throughout the Columbia Basin," and it expects progress to continue.

"We are not surprised, but we are disappointed at the prospect of yet another cycle of litigation, which only distracts from implementing projects on the ground," spokeswoman Connie Barkley said in an email. "We will continue to work collaboratively with our many regional partners to ensure the protection and restoration of these important fish and their habitats now and well into the future, and we encourage all to join in that effort."

The Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation had no immediate comment about the new legal challenge.