NOAA Submits ‘Final’ Columbia Salmon Plans

In handing over papers to a Federal court in Portland this morning, NOAA-Fisheries called their supplemental biological opinion for threatened Columbia River salmon “legally and biologically sound.”

It follows up on Judge James Redden’s February advice to NOAA to fold an Adaptive Management Implementation Plan into their 2008 Biop, part of a longer struggle between federal agencies and the judge over protections for Chinook, sockeye and steelhead, among other species.

The agency and others reviewed new science, including “updated adult returns data, further information about cormorant predation on fish, and more details on the possible biological effects of climate change,” and today announced “six new actions to further identify and protect against the uncertainties caused by climate change, toxics, invasive species and hatchery fish.”

Three scientists also performed a blind peer review.

A statement from NOAA also says the BiOp now “ensures that operation of the (Federal Columbia River Power System) is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence or destroy or adversely modify the critical habitat of Snake River spring/summer Chinook, Snake River fall Chinook, Snake River steelhead, Snake River sockeye, middle Columbia River steelhead, upper Columbia River spring Chinook, or upper Columbia River steelhead … The 2010 Supplemental BiOp is legally and biologically sound, and provides strong protection for Northwest salmon and steelhead.”

Here’s how Northwest reporters synthesize NOAA’s plans:

The Oregonian: Obama Administration backs Bush-era plan for Columbia Basin salmon

The NOAA Fisheries Service said it found “no major surprises” in its review of the Bush Administration’s 2008 biological opinion and only “modest changes” in the science governing fish recovery.

Associated Press, as picked up by a TV station:  Feds Slightly Revise Plan On Columbia River Salmon

After spending three months undergoing a court-ordered review, the Obama Administration submitted its plan to make the Columbia Basin’s hydroelectric dams safer for endangered salmon with only minor changes.

UPDATED MAY 21: Here’s reaction to the new plan:

“These guys came out with Band-Aids when we’re hemorrhaging from a major artery,”  Nicole Cordan of Save Our Wild Salmon told the Associated Press. “These are species that are already imperiled, and they’re saying, ‘We’re going to do less for them.'”

“Any fish living above the dams are ESA listed, and that isn’t going to change with a tweak here and a twist there,” Glen Spain, Northwest rep for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, said in the same article. “It’s disappointing to see them do little or nothing and dance around the big issues once again.”

“The most recent science all points in the same direction — climate change is upon us and it is already impacting our waters,” ODFW’s former fisheries chief Jim Martin said in a statement posted on the LA Times. “The only answer is that this administration has — against its promises and exclamations — allowed politics to trump sound science.”

In a long piece, the Columbia Basin Bulletin has more quotes from all three sides — Feds, salmon advocates and industry.

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