Thank you for contacting me about salmon and steelhead on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. I appreciate hearing from you and share your concern for the long-term survival of endangered salmon species.
There are 13 Endangered Species Act protected salmon and steelhead runs that migrate through the Columbia River and its tributaries to the Pacific Ocean. These salmon and steelhead runs are affected by the operation of federally owned and operated hydroelectric dams in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. Recovery of salmon and steelhead species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act is vital to communities up and down the West Coast.
In 2008, and supplemented in 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proposed a 10-year plan, known as a “Biological Opinion” (2008/2010 BiOp ). This BiOp would govern the operation of the federal hydroelectric system for the years 2008-2018 while also protecting endangered salmon. In the Northwest, federal agencies, together with state and tribal governments, worked for over three years on a court-ordered, science-based, ground-up collaborative effort to develop the 2008/2010 BiOp .
On August 2, 2011, the U.S. Federal District Court in Portland, Oregon, concluded that the 2008/2010 BiOp should remain in place through the end of 2013, but directed NOAA to provide more a more specific habitat program for the term 2014-2018. The Court remanded the post-2013 term of the BiOp to NOAA to work with the federal agencies that operate the hydroelectric system – the Bonneville Power Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – together with states and tribes to develop a more specific 2014-2018 habitat program by January 1, 2014. The Court has ordered that the collaborative process that led to the 2008-2010 BiOp shall continue for developing a more specific plan for 2014-2018, to ensure that the plan put in place not only complies with the Endangered Species Act, but also reflects an important regional collaboration. The Court also ordered that spring and summer spill will continue in accordance with previous court-ordered spill levels, as would current river flow and reservoir operations.
Saving salmon requires sound science to develop the necessary plans, and the commitment of resources and political will to implement them. We must develop a solution that fulfills our energy needs and simultaneously preserves our valuable Northwest salmon species. Decisions regarding the future of our endangered salmon stocks must be based on sound science and carefully consider all potential impacts on the state.
Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. You may also be interested in signing up for periodic updates for Washington State residents. If you are interested in subscribing to this update, please visit my website at http://cantwell.senate.gov . Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.
United States Senator
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