The State of Oregon, US, has formally warned the federal government that it intends to sue over the biological opinion for the Columbia river dam.
In a letter sent by Attorney General Hardy Myers, Oregon has given the US Bureau of Reclamation, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration a 60 day warning to change their current policy or face a law suit.
A federal judge decided that the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration’s (NOAA) 2000 biological opinion failed to ensure that salmon in the river would be protected, so a new one was produced last year.
The 2004 opinion concluded that dams are part of the landscape and should not be considered a threat to fish. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski is not satisfied with the change in policy, and wants the government to make a greater commitment to restoring healthy runs. Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) a federal agency must not take actions that will jeopardise the continued existence of an endangered or threatened species.
‘The Columbia river hydro system is an asset to Oregon and the greatest source of electricity in the region. But abundant salmon is also critical to our economy and our Native tribes. It is wrong to assume we have to sacrifice salmon for power. We can have stable and predictable electrical power – and plentiful salmon,’ said the Governor in his State of the State speech on 10 January 2005, according to the State of Oregon website.
‘The 2004 Biological Opinion claims that federal law does not require that salmon be brought back to abundant levels, and that the harm caused by Columbia river dams can be ignored. This is absolute nonsense. The federal government wants to turn its back on its previous policy of recovering salmon to levels that sustain social, economic and ecological benefits – and substitute the lower standard of making sure that salmon simply survive.’
The governor added that he is prepared to use ‘every legal tool the state has’ in the name of turning survival back into recovery.