By Ed Brost and Jim Sanders, Special to the Herald
It's time to end the lengthy legal battle over the Northwest's endangered fish runs.
The latest salmon plan for the Federal Columbia River Power System, called the 2010 Supplemental Biological Opinion (BiOp), is designed to provide strong protection for salmon and steelhead affected by the operation of the federal hydro system.
On May 9, U.S. District Court Judge James Redden will hear more oral arguments in Portland, which should be the final hearing in this case.
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Litigation has gone on for more than a decade. Judge Redden should approve the BiOp and allow it to be implemented.
This plan is more comprehensive than any before it. It is the product of an unprecedented collaboration of federal agencies, the states of Montana, Washington and Idaho, and the sovereign tribes of the Colville, Shoshone-Bannock, Warm Springs, Umatilla and Yakama.
Based on the best available science, the BiOp has been reviewed and approved by an independent panel of scientists.
Two administrations also have approved it, including current National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration director, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, a well-known and respected marine ecologist and environmental scientist.
The BiOp is supported by a 10-year funding agreement of more than $1 billion. For the foreseeable future, salmon and steelhead mitigation in the Northwest will continue to be one of the largest wildlife recovery efforts in history. Additionally, the plan incorporates adaptive management of the hydrosystem that allows new scientific information to be applied as it becomes available.
The rebuilding of the salmon runs of the Columbia River should be based on cost-effective, sound science to guide our actions, and a strong commitment to implement the actions for the future of our economy, our people and for the fish.
What does this mean to our community? The dams at issue in this salmon plan provide our community with more than 70 percent of clean, renewable hydroelectric power. Much of the salmon plan being litigated in Judge Redden's court will be paid for by people like you -- customers of consumer-owned utilities that buy power generated by the dams in the Federal Columbia River Power System.
Continued litigation only increases the cost of this plan to our utility customers. Already, nearly 20 percent of an average Benton PUD and Franklin PUD residential customer bill is due to the impact of fish mitigation programs.
With a reasoned and scientific approach, the Northwest can protect salmon runs and maintain the many vital benefits that these remarkable rivers bring to Northwest residents and businesses.
While healthy salmon runs are critical to preserving the Northwest way of life, bad decisions about salmon recovery result in unhealthy trade-offs such as increased pollution, negative impacts to agriculture and river transportation, and increased power rates.
This long-running litigation and posturing needs to end to give the plan an opportunity to succeed. We can embrace the accomplishments to date and are committed to future progress.
It's time to take the salmon out of the courtroom.
* Ed Brost is general manager for Franklin PUD, and Jim Sanders is general manager for Benton PUD.