The Obama administration is explicitly re-thinking the Bush approach to Columbia River dams and salmon. On May 1, the administration asked United States District Judge James Redden, who has spent years hearing litigation over flawed biological opinions on dam operation, to give it 'êan additional 30 to 60 days to more fully understand all aspects of the [current] BiOp.'ê
'êThis is very good news,'ê says Pat Ford, executive director of the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition. 'êIt is what we had asked the Obama administration to do. I think it indicates serious doubt in Washington D.C. that the Bush plan meets legal muster. We believe a serious review will now follow.'ê
Presumably one of the D.C. doubters is Obama's new Secretary of Commerce, former Washington governor Gary Locke. Perhaps for the first time, we have a Commerce Secretary who understands salmon issues. Since NOAA is part of the Commerce Department, that may count for a lot. How much it counts remains to be seen. In general, the stars seem to be lining up for possible dam removals to help salmon more than any time in the past 20 years, according to this overview story from High Country News.
The administration's review may or may not come quickly enough to avert further legal combat. Ford notes that 'êsummer spill has still not been agreed to by the feds, and we still think it may take a verdict from Judge Redden to really catalyze positive progress."