Is it time to remove the four Lower Snake River dams? People across the region will have a chance to weigh in on the controversial question this fall as three federal agencies hold public hearings to discuss the creation of a new plan for saving endangered Northwest salmon, writes S-R reporter Becky Kramer. In a May ruling, a U.S. District Court judge in Portland sided with fishing groups, environmentalists, the state of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe, finding that the latest in a series of federal plans for protecting the fish was inadequate. The court ordered the agencies to prepare a new plan.
In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon said federal agencies have “done their utmost” to avoid considering breaching the Snake River dams, despite strong suggestions to do so by a previous judge who oversaw the case. You can read Kramer’s full report here at spokesman.com.
Simon ordered the federal government to come up with a new plan by March 2018. He said he wouldn’t dictate what options agencies should consider, but said a proper analysis under federal law “may well require” considering breaching, bypassing or removing one or more of the four Lower Snake River dams.
The Nez Perce Tribe, in a statement today, is backing removal of the Snake River dams. “The four dams on the lower Snake River have had a devastating impact on salmon, steelhead, and Pacific lamprey, and in turn on the Nez Perce people,” said McCoy Oatman, the tribe’s vice-chairman. “The tribe looks forward to continuing to provide leadership in restoring these fish to healthy, harvestable levels and fairly sharing the conservation burden.”
The 15 public hearings on the new salmon plan begin Oct. 24 in Wenatchee and continue through December. There will be meetings in Spokane, Coulee Dam Priest River and Bonners Ferry. A complete list of the meetings is available here.