DeFazio, Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition at odds over salmon plan

Earlier this month, Peter DeFazio joined Greg Walden for a joint op-ed on Columbia and Snake River salmon recovery in The Oregonian.

From the piece:

There may finally be a collaborative plan for the management of the Columbia and Snake rivers, but there's one more step to go.

The process behind a plan to resolve issues with the management of the two rivers has worked.

Four years ago, instead of fighting battles in a courtroom, states, tribes and federal agencies began working together to agree on a solution to very complex issues facing the management of the river systems.

After tireless and difficult work, federal agencies, the states of Washington, Idaho and Montana, and the Warm Springs, Umatilla, Yakama, Colville and Shoshone-Bannock tribes agreed to a new plan that will be argued today in U.S. District Court.

Although the plan comes at no small cost -- nearly $100 million annually to be paid by BPA ratepayers across the region -- this collaborative effort has allowed a diverse group to design and advance a plan that will provide a platform upon which participants may move forward with certainty and in support of threatened and endangered fish species along the Columbia and Snake rivers.

It has been no small task to achieve the goal of healthy fish runs, reliable hydropower and enough water supply for our region's many other needs.

Read the rest here.

DeFazio's position didn't sit well the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, who expressed disappointment with the usually supportive congressman: 

While the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition would like to share Congressman DeFazio's enthusiasm for the federal government's salmon plan, the fact is, we can't. That's because the 2008 federal salmon plan constitutes a significant step backwards for Columbia-Snake Basin salmon and steelhead recovery.

Here are a few of the plan's substantial flaws:
- The plan re-interprets an important part of the Endangered Species Act known as the jeopardy standard - the way federal agencies determine if an action is seriously harming or "jeopardizing" a protected species. In the case of the 2008 salmon plan, the Bush Administration re-wrote this standard in a way that significantly lowers the bar for what recovery means to a species. In fact, the new standard says salmon are okay - or "trending toward recovery" - as long as we get just ONE more salmon back per year in any given population. Just one a year! Consequently, it's entirely possible that under the 2008 plan, some salmon runs would never recover. If upheld, this new interpretation of the jeopardy standard could have grave repercussions for threatened and endangered species across the nation.

- The 2008 salmon plan diligently avoids requiring any meaningful changes to the operation of the federal hydropower system on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, despite the fact that these dams are the single largest source of mortality for ESA-listed salmon and steelhead. In fact, as many of 90% of some Snake River salmon are killed by the dams and their impacts before the young fish migrating downstream reach the ocean.

- The 2008 plan rolls back current salmon protections put in place by court order. For example, the 2008 plan limits measures like increased flow and spill - water that is spilled over the dams to help young salmon migrate more safely to the ocean - which are known to increase salmon survival, and which allow fish to remain in the river rather than being trucked or barged downstream. Rolling back these protections runs counter to the best science and could erode the small gains in salmon survival realized over the past few years.

- The 2008 plan downplays the role of climate change and the likelihood that regional warming trends will make salmon recovery even tougher than it is today. By assuming that global warming will get no worse than it has over the past two decades, the federal salmon plan leaves us woefully unprepared for the predicted changes that are likely to result in warmer, drier, and deadlier conditions for the Northwest's imperiled coldwater fish.

These are just some of the reasons that conservationists, fishing businesses and fishermen, and several Northwest Indian tribes oppose the Bush Administration's federal salmon plan. And they're some of the reasons we're so disappointed that Congressman DeFazio has chosen to support it. By backing this plan, Congressman DeFazio has endorsed a document that the conservation and fishing communities believe violates the Endangered Species Act in very fundamental ways - something which runs counter to the congressman's longtime defense of the ESA.

Read the rest here.


  • Amanda Peacher (unverified)

    It baffles me that DeFazio is such a ardent supporter of this Bush administration salmon BiOp. He's usually fantastic on environmental issues, but on this one he's dead wrong. DeFazio is blatantly going against the majority scientific opinion--that the only way to restore Snake River salmon is to take out the 4 lower Snake River dams--and siding with anti-salmon legislators.

    It seems like DeFazio hasn't really taken a good, hard look at the cost-benefit breakdown of taking the lower Snake dams out vs. keeping them in. Those dams provide very few benefits-- less than 4% of NW electricity, and in-reservoir transportation for barges. Meanwhile, taxpayers are spending billions and billions of band aid salmon recovery fixes that don't work. I think the taxpayer tab is up to $7 billion now.

    DeFazio should take a cue from our new junior senator and be more open to real solutions for salmon--not the shell solutions presented by the Republicans.

  • Idaho River Journeys (unverified)

    Amen, Preacher. We're up to our knees in greenwash!

  • John Lloyd Scharf (unverified)

    Help me understand how global warming would mean the Northwest is or would be drier?

  • John Lloyd Scharf (unverified)

    Another question. When is the last time ANY of you ate salmon from the inland waters of the Northwest?

    I am betting you are not willing to give up your power to remove those dams. This is one of the most anti-progressive plans I can think of. Rather than charging others more and using coal fired power, I think every one of you that want to do this should CEASE to use public power.

    You refuse to allow drilling for oil or gas in Oregon. You refuse to allow wind generators to be built where the wind blows in Oregon. We only have so much power in Oregon. I was born and raised where those dams back flooded into.

    YOU benefit by the power Oregon provides and fight it at every turn. YOU benefit by the protection from flooding they provide. YOU are making Oregon powerless and dangerous. YOU may go to California, Illinois, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, or any other failed state.

    STOP tampering with Oregon's resources and public protections.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    The longest journey may begin with the first step, but one more fish does not indicate a recovering salmon run.

    Following the reasoning of John Lloyd Scharf, folks concerned with global warming should give up exhaling.

  • Captured One (unverified)

    Scharf: Who is “You”? Statements that includes blanket expressions like “YOU” or “YOU PEOPLE” aren't really very helpful. In terms of the dams in question – the four on the lower Snake River – they aren’t authorized to provide flood control and are actually causing a flood risk in the town of Lewiston, ID. And the power from these dams can be replaced in a way that actually creates jobs. See two different reports on that – a study by the Rand Corporation and a new one called Bright Future from the NW Energy Coalition. In terms of DeFazio, he has a curious history of stalling progress on this issue in Congress. He continues to appear beholden to the Bonneville Power Administration and the Northwest River Partners (an industry lobby) for shaping his positions on Columbia-Snake salmon recovery. It’d be great if other members of the Northwest delegation could tell him to relax and start supporting a real collaborative solution where the deck isn’t always stacked in the federal government’s favor.

  • John Lloyd Scharf (unverified)

    Prove there is a way to replace the power and DO THAT FIRST. YOU are those people who assume there is an answer without proof AND without making one realistic and pragmatic answer to the question. I am all for alternative energy, including wind, every kind of solar power, and even drilling for natural gas.

    YOU, on the other and go by FAKE names rather than your own. YOU should not question who I am until YOU reveal who YOU are.

    YOU have not proven these dams can or would be replaced in ANY way that actually creates jobs. YOU would replace, in the end, clean hydroelectric power with COAL FIRED power. YOU do not, I suspect, even know how much power in the PNW already has to be produced with coal already.

    If YOU think YOU can claim to be helpful, start with creating jobs. Start with creating energy. If YOU do not like the YOU and YOU PEOPLE in what I said, remember that that BPA was formed by the progressive Democratic party at the time rather than some self-appointed self-righteous selfish minority that considers the safety and benefit of salmon over that of humans.

    Do not claim to be Progressive when you fight progress and fight the interests of the majority without their permission.

  • Captured One (unverified)

    Again, please take a look at both studies. The Rand Study found that replacing the energy from the four lower Snake River dams could create nearly 15,000 jobs. The Bright Future study found that with a focus on energy efficiency and renewables we can save enough energy to meet all normal demand growth and 60% of total new power needs, including the clean energy needed to replace coal plants and help salmon. That’s right, no coal. Even BPA head Steve Wright commented favorably on the report. This is why it’s frustrating that some Northwest politicians – particularly Congressman DeFazio – remain unwilling to explore all options for finding solutions to a debacle that has plagued the Northwest for years.

  • finn (unverified)

    I thought the Faz had claimed to be pro-ESA. Not sure how that can be when he bends over bakcwards for BPA every time they're involved.

  • o. corinerka (unverified)

    What is Rep. DeFazio so afraid of? Why is he trying to block the region from taking a look at how to replace the lower Snake River dams and compare dam removal against the other options in terms of salmon recovery, other environmental issues, and economics? If it's so expensive that the region, at the end of that process, would rather seek to exempt Snake River stocks from the ESA, that's certainly a choice we could make -- but DeFazio (and Sen. Murray in Washington) should stop trying to block informed negotiations, analysis, and debate on this issue.

  • turn to the back of the book (unverified)

    Climate change would likely lead to drier inland areas, in Oregon, and wetter climes West of Cascades area, with more seasonal fluctuations, like the snows this winter, and more intense storms.

  • Secure the Planet, Then the Homeland (unverified)

    Posted by: finn | Apr 1, 2009 12:22:07 PM

    I thought the Faz had claimed to be pro-ESA. Not sure how that can be when he bends over bakcwards for BPA every time they're involved.

    That's a very good observation, and got me thinking, about why.

    I'll bet it's the oldest corrupting influence in governemtn, beyond money, being an "insider". BPA has lots of Homeland Security provisions now and being let in on the ground floor could be enough to "buy" his compliance. It sucks him into their mindset.

    We do have to beware those Chinese implanted salmon that could blow up a dam! Damn!

  • West Texas Trash, Like Yer Last Prez (unverified)

    Points taken. Don't underestimate how much dams can represent the "system" and local power.

    Outside San Angelo Texas, we have a road sign that reads, "Slow down, look at our dam. Speed up, see our damn judge!".

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    The Rand Corp is a pretty good outfit. However the cited study is now well over six (6) years old. I reviewed it briefly and came away with this - 84% increase in grain transportation costs. $2 - $6Mm extraeach year in well maintenance, taking 37,000 acres out of farmland production.

    Just a thought....

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    We've debated Dutch governance as being some of the most progressive. It is worth noting that all their law is based on water rights and stewardship. Not just the law, the language itself. "Grondwet" is not "groundwater", but "constitution".

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