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Judge approves plan to release more water over federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 10, 2018, 1:57 p.m.

FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2013, file photo, a wild Idaho Salmon River steelhead is netted and quickly released in the Salmon River north of Riggins, Idaho. A United States District judge approved a plan to release more water through eight federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers on Tuesday, Jan. 9. (Pete Zimowsky / Associated Press)
FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2013, file photo, a wild Idaho Salmon River steelhead is netted and quickly released in the Salmon River north of Riggins, Idaho. A United States District judge approved a plan to release more water through eight federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers on Tuesday, Jan. 9. (Pete Zimowsky / Associated Press)

A United States District judge approved a plan on Monday to release more water over eight federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

The order comes after an April 2017 court ruling demanding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers release more water through the spillways. The court gave the government a year to determine the best way to increase spill rates. The increased water flow is believed to help young salmon reach the sea.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon approved the plans.

Conservation groups praised the decision in a news release on Tuesday.

“Increasing the proportion of spill is vital for the protection of salmon and steelhead, and for fishing businesses and communities across the Northwest,” said Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association via news release.This order for additional spill will divert baby salmon away from powerhouses, increasing the survival of juvenile fish migrating past dams to the ocean, enhancing the numbers of adult fish returning in the years that follow.”

Todd True, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs said via news release that the increased spill will benefit salmon.

“This spill order has been carefully crafted to avoid any unintended negative consequences to navigation and other resources,” he said in the release. “In fact, it is very likely that spill at higher levels would afford additional salmon survival improvements.”

Sam Mace, the Inland Northwest Director for Save Our Wild Salmon said she was “encouraged” by the approval. The increased spill will start in April when the fish begin migrating.


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