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Federal Salmon Recovery Plan Back on the Hotseat

March 5, 2009

Portland, OR – On Friday, all sides will be back in a Portland courtroom in the ongoing debate about the latest federal plan to save salmon. It’s a holdover from the Bush administration, and Judge James Redden has said he’d rather determine how to fix the plan, called a Biological Opinion, rather than sending it back to the feds to start over.

As president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Glen Spain represents commercial fishermen. His group is part of a coalition asking for all parties to sit down and negotiate in roundtable fashion, rather than in court, he says.

"We’re hopeful that, like we’re doing in the Klamath and we’ve done in the San Joaquin in California, we can take some of these very intractable problems and, with a little bit of common sense and some federal intervention, solve them over time through negotiation."

In the meantime, sport fishermen are expecting another lean year for their industry, and for the small towns in Washington and Oregon that depend on fishing trades. Bob Reese, president of the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association, hopes the judge’s decision comes soon.

"A few years, ago, we had opportunities to fish seven days a week, during the month of April, for example – and that was with a two-fish bag limit, specifically targeting hatchery fish. But this year, we’re only allowed a one-fish bag limit, and we can only fish four days a week."

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife forecasts the largest coho salmon run since 2001. Conservation groups say that’s partly because of the judge’s earlier requirement that more water be spilled over Columbia River dams. They still hope he’ll advocate removing four dams on the Lower Snake River, which is not part of the current plan. Opponents of dam removal say the dams are necessary to manage the river for barge traffic and hydropower.

The hearing is Friday in U.S. District court in Portland.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA