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Judge questions plan on dams

9/28/2004, 12:44 a.m. PT

The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Bush administration's dismissal of dam removal as an option for restoring salmon has been met with skepticism by the federal judge overseeing the protection of the fish.At

U.S. District Judge James Redden has raised several questions about the legal and scientific footing for the plan and will lay out his concerns at a status conference Tuesday with government lawyers and those for conservation groups and American Indian tribes.

Redden, in a written order, questioned the government's revised conclusion that the dams pose no jeopardy to the continued existence of salmon. The conclusion was a reversal from the government's previous position that the threat of dams is significant enough to consider targeting some for removal.

Conservationists, American Indian tribes and commercial and sport fishing groups were frustrated by the government's new stance.

"All we're saying is, use best science, not best politics, when managing these fish stocks," said Trey Carskadon, a board member for the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.

Fishing and conservation groups say the surest way to restore fish is to remove four dams on the lower Snake River.

Bush administration officials dismissed dam removal from consideration, saying the Endangered Species Act requires the fisheries service to consider only how the dams will be operated, not their existence.

A spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency responsible for endangered salmon, said the draft meets legal requirements.


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