Court: Bush plan for Columbia dams violates Endangered Species Act |

Court: Bush plan for Columbia dams violates Endangered Species Act

GRANTS PASS, Ore. ” Using strong words, a federal appeals court on Monday upheld a ruling that found the Bush administration’s novel plan for making Columbia Basin dams safe for salmon violates the Endangered Species Act.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco lets stand a federal court order requiring the dams to sacrifice power production to help salmon.

It also keeps open the possibility that four dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington could be breached to restore salmon in danger of going extinct.

In 2004, after more than a decade of losing court challenges to its management proposals, the federal agency in charge of restoring salmon populations came up with a new approach.

NOAA Fisheries argued that the dams were built before the Endangered Species Act became law, so their existence was part of the environmental baseline, and not subject to change to help salmon. The same went for basic operations, such as irrigation, flood control and power generation.

The appeals court called that approach “little more than an analytical sleight of hand.”

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