Judge rules against dam spill reduction - Report shows that move would endanger Snake River chinook

William McCall
Associated Press

July 29, 2004

PORTLAND U.S. District Judge James Redden on Wednesday ruled in favor of opponents of a reduction in the annual summer spill from Columbia and Snake River dams, issuing a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Redden said a 2000 biological opinion clearly showed Snake River fall chinook were in jeopardy unless the Bonneville Power Administration allowed more water over the dams in the summers to help juvenile fish migrate to the ocean.

BPA had planned to reduce spills at four dams, including Bonneville Dam, the last barrier to the seasonal journey of juvenile salmon swimming down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean.

The federal power marketing agency said it was trying to minimize the disruption to the fish while maintaining hydroelectric production for the West.

But opponents of the spill reduction, including Oregon Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, environmental groups, fishermen and Northwest Indian tribes, said the potential damage to salmon recovery efforts outweighed the short-term economic benefit of maintaining power production.

But Fred Disheroon, a U.S. Justice Department attorney representing the federal agencies, told Redden that courts have no business interfering in routine operations such as modifying summer spill plans.

The BPA typically spills water over dams during spring and summer to help young salmon bypass power turbines. But the agency says it can reduce spills enough to save $18 million to $28 million in Western power production without seriously affecting salmon runs.



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