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Daily Newscasts

Is the “New” BiOp… Really New?

May 5, 2008

Portland, OR – The debate on how to save Pacific Northwest salmon continues today as a new federal salmon management plan, known as a "Biological Opinion," comes out for another round of scrutiny by a federal judge. Critics are already predicting it still won't do enough to save the endangered fish.

Dan Ritzman, Northwest regional director of the Sierra Club, says conservation groups don't expect anything new from the revised "BiOp," and they hope the judge will order an independent scientific review of it. Their view is that solutions to the biggest problems for migrating fish haven't yet been part of the plan.

"They leave completely off the table the option of removing the four lower Snake River dams. And then there's the host of other issues –- river flow, water temperature, those sorts of issues –- that aren't adequately addressed either."

Jim Martin is the former Chief of Fisheries for the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department. He believes that to improve salmon migration the focus should be on the Snake River. However, the feds' strategy has been to improve habitat on its tributaries instead of the main river. Martin calls that a short-term fix.

"We're going to end up doing a lot of things that help salmon survive the decade, and nothing that helps salmon survive the century. This is a prescription for extinction, and it's driven by the politics of extinction. Governor Ted Kulongoski and many others see right through it, and we'll see what Judge Redden has to say."

Since federal judge James Redden rejected the last BiOp six months ago, the commercial salmon fishing season has been cancelled, and three Native American tribes, once critical of the plan, have agreed not to challenge it, in exchange for almost one billion dollars in aid over the next 10 years. The Bonneville Power Administration notes that it's already spent nine billion dollars trying to save salmon in the Columbia Basin, and that its payments to the tribes will go toward improving fish habitat.


When the BiOp is released, it can be viewed online at www.nwr.noaa.gov. Click on "Biological Opinions."

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR