Monday, August 8, 2011

Renewed Hope for Columbia & Snake River Salmon- Judge Make Importance Ruling

GWWF has been active in helping Save our Wild Salmon ( efforts to restore salmon on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in Washingston. Here is an update on a recent decision which gives hope to these struggling populations:

Judge rejects salmon protection plan as too vague

JEFF BARNARD, AP Environmental Writer
Published 03:11 p.m., Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A federal judge in Oregon ruled Tuesday the Obama administration's attempt to make federal hydroelectric dams in the Northwest safer for protected salmon violates the Endangered Species Act.

In a sternly worded ruling, U.S. District Judge James Redden in Portland, Ore., wrote that the plan, known as a biological opinion, is too vague and uncertain on specific steps that will be taken in future years to improve salmon habitat.

Redden added that he doesn't think the government can meet the standards of the Endangered Species Act by habitat improvements alone, and it is time to consider new options, including removing some of the dams.

The judge left the plan in place through 2013, when federal agencies must come up with more specific projects to help salmon through 2018.

Earthjustice attorney Todd True, who represented the salmon advocacy groups that challenge the biological opinion, noted this is the third straight time Redden has rejected the government's attempt to say that the harm caused by the dams can be mitigated by improvements to habitat.

The judge is saying, "It is time to go in a new direction," True said. "We have been saying that for years. Hopefully the government will get the message now."

The 2010 biological opinion covers 14 federally owned and operated hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers in Oregon, Washington and Montana. Under the Endangered Species Act, A government project like these dams cannot harm threatened and endangered species. Otherwise, it must come up with steps to reduce the harm, known as reasonable and prudent alternatives.

While the dams have provided the West with cheap hydroelectric power for decades, they are also a leading factor in the steady decline in populations of wild salmon, which only account for a small fraction of annual returns anymore. The bulk of the fish returning each year to spawn come from hatcheries.

Read more:

Tuolumne River Trust's 30th Anniversary Gala

Please save the date of September 29th, 2011 to toast 30 years of successful river protection and show your support for ongoing efforts to protect and revive the Tuolumne River. It'll be an evening of fine wine, beer, and hors d'oeuvres while overlooking beautiful San Francisco Bay from the Horizon Room at the Claremont Hotel.

The evening will include:

Presentation of Tuolumne River Pioneer Awards
Presentation of Tuolumne River Leadership Awards
A glimpse of the vision for the future
A rare opportunity to mingle with pioneers who played leading roles in the history of the Tuolumne River Trust and to meet the current Board of Directors, Advisors, and Staff who have expanded the organization into a watershed-wide movement.

Tickets are on sale now. Go to or call 888-994-3344.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Don Pedro Dam Relicensing on the Lower Tuolumne River

The FERC relicensing of the Don Pedro dam on the Tuolumne River began earlier this year and I am representing GWWF and the NCCFFF. The CV Salmon and Steelhead have been struggling for years and years on this river and a strong coalition of conservation groups as well as the fishery agencies are working hard to finally get meaningful improved conditions for the fish. This basically means increased flows for the fish at the right time and temperatures. There were FERC scoping meetings held one day in May in Turlock and Modesto. This is an opportunity for the public to make comments to FERC about what should be considered in the relicensing and suggest some study plans. I attended both meetings and submitted comments, of course, advocating better flows for the fish. The turnout was extremely high at these meetings and there are all sorts of parties interested in the use of the river. A large number of comments were filed with FERC and includes over 75 study requests! The Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts have already tried to limit the geographic scope of this relicensing as well by saying that the La Grange dam, which they own, but is not under FERC jurisdiction is the controlling factor in downstream flows. We are just starting on this process, so you’ll get updates as we progress.

Merced Dam Relicensings

I am representing GWWF and the NCCFFF in this matter in which two dams (New Exchequer/McSwain) operated by the Merced Irrigation are undergoing relicensing for a new FERC license which would be renewed for another 30-50 years. We are in year two of the five year process and it is has been a contentious situation in which the Irrigation District really tried to limit the geographic scope of their impact of their hydro projects—essentially arguing that their dams do not affect condition downstream of their dams! In addition, they have resisted nearly all the studies requested related to the fishery which includes Fall run Chinook Salmon and ESA listed Central Valley Steelhead. Finally, they are pushing to remove the Wild and Scenic Designation of the Merced River in order to be able to increase the size of their reservoir (which has never spilled over the dam), which would flood a significant portion of the Merced River, including two campgrounds within this important recreational area. The Wild and Scenic Designation is used to protect rivers from just this sort of thing. A bill was introduced into Congress and is winding through the committee process. Earlier this year, the California State Water Board ordered the Irrigation District to do a whole slew of studies since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) decided not to require many studies which are necessary to figure out the conditions for fish and what needs to be adjusted as a condition for the new license. This action by the State Water Board was a first and they are the ones who issue a 401 certificate which is necessary for the new license. This was a big win for the fish. FERC did order two more studies: Instream flows and Chinook Salmon Egg Viability. For more information on the status of the HR bill 869 which seeks to remove the Wild & Scenic Status go to the Friends of the River website which also has updates on the Merced relicensing at: