Skip to Content

Parties in federal salmon lawsuit seek pause in litigation

KTVZ File/MGN/NRCS-Gary Kramer

Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Parties in a lawsuit involving dams on the Columbia and Snake river system are asking a federal court for a pause in litigation.

Fishing and conservation groups, along with the state of Oregon, the Nez Perce tribe, and the Biden administration say the pause is needed so they can try to work out a solution to save endangered salmon runs.

The lawsuit filed against several federal agencies involves the most recent plan for dam operations issued by the Trump administration in 2020.

The stay request would still seek to increase water flow for a short time next spring through the dams, to help salmon migrate to the ocean.

If the federal court in Portland grants the stay, these parties will use the time to develop a comprehensive solution that could resolve decades of litigation.

Read more at:

News release from Interior Department:

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Steps to Improve Conditions for Salmon in the Columbia River Basin

WASHINGTON — The Biden-Harris administration today announced an important step to chart a path forward in a longstanding Columbia River Basin conflict regarding the operation of 14 federal dams and their impacts on the region's salmon and steelhead populations.

In an effort to take a fresh look at the important issues affecting the communities, economy, and resources of the Pacific Northwest, the United States, the State of Oregon, the Nez Perce Tribe, and a coalition of plaintiffs led by the National Wildlife Federation have reached a compromise on key disputed elements of 2022 Columbia River system operations.

The agreement, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, outlines how eight dams in the Columbia River Basin will be operated over the coming year. This will include additional fish passage spill of water past the dams at certain times of year while still preserving reliable hydropower production, transportation, and other services provided by the dams.

The agreement also asks the court to stay the litigation until the end of July 2022, to afford affected states, Tribal nations, and stakeholders the opportunity to identify and review alternative and durable solutions to longstanding challenges in the Columbia River System.

“The Columbia River System is an invaluable natural resource that is critical to many stakeholders in the Basin. Today’s filing represents an important opportunity to prioritize the resolution of more than 20 years of litigation and identify creative solutions that improve conditions for salmon for years to come,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “While it is important to balance the region’s economy and power generation, it is also time to improve conditions for Tribes that have relied on these important species since time immemorial.”

“Hydroelectric power plays an incredible role in integrating renewable resources and providing carbon-free power, a great example of the affordable and clean energy sources that are available in all pockets of this country,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. "By joining forces with our interagency partners and key stakeholders in the Northwest, DOE will ensure that the reduction of carbon emissions remains a priority, alongside supporting a strong economy and affordable power for families and businesses, as we partner in the Northwest to meet the full range of the region’s goals.”

“The Columbia River System federal dams play a vital role in providing for flood resilience, low-carbon waterborne transportation of goods and public safety in the Region. We remain committed to pursuing collaborative approaches to river management, public safety, and salmon restoration,” stated Acting Principal Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Vance Stewart.

“A healthy and vibrant Columbia River Basin is good for the economy and it’s good for the people of the Pacific Northwest.,” observed Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. “The Columbia River Basin is essential to salmon and steelhead production on the West Coast, providing a key refuge for salmon and steelhead from the effects of climate change. Finding effective solutions to conserve and rebuild these species and their habitat is of critical importance to our work.”

“For the sake of everyone who lives in the Northwest, it is time to chart a more sustainable path in the Columbia River Basin,” said White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory. “This agreement opens an opportunity for States, Tribes, Federal agencies, Congress, and all stakeholders to work together to forge enduring solutions that are so badly needed. The Administration is committed to reaching a long-term solution in the region to restore salmon, honoring our commitments to Tribal Nations, ensuring reliable clean energy, and addressing the needs of stakeholders.”

News release from Gov. Kate Brown:

Governor Kate Brown Issues Statement on Short-Term Agreement for Columbia Basin

Stay of litigation with federal government lays groundwork for a comprehensive solution
 (Washington, D.C.) — Governor Kate Brown issued the following statement today, following the signing of a short-term agreement on a stay of litigation through July 2022 between the State of Oregon and its co-plaintiffs and the federal government concerning dam operations in the Columbia Basin:

“I’d like to thank the parties on both sides of this issue, who worked hard to craft a plan for short-term operations of the Columbia River System, giving us the time and space to work on a comprehensive, long-term solution for everyone who depends on the rivers of the Columbia Basin.

“We have no time to waste, with the Basin’s salmon and steelhead on the brink of extinction. We need a comprehensive solution that ensures robust and harvestable fish population and economic growth for agriculture and commodity transport, as well as an assessment of the replacement of the services provided by the Lower Snake River dams. The assessment should include the federal investments needed to upgrade the evolving portfolio of clean energy sources and transmission infrastructure for the region.

“I’d like to thank the Biden-Harris Administration for their commitment to work cooperatively with us, the Tribes of the Columbia Basin, and the other key parties to begin working towards implementation of a long-term solution in 2022. My administration stands ready to collaborate with all stakeholders on this effort, so we can start immediately to meet our shared goals for the region.”

A copy of the signed agreement is available here.

The Associated Press


1 Comment

  1. Decades of arguing while ignoring the elephant in the room. Once the ‘forever stalled’ cleanup of Hanford allows sludge to enter the river, there will be no life in the river to argue over.

Leave a Reply

Skip to content