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1/30/04 Columbia Basin Bulletin,

States and tribes this week sent a letter to the federal government suggesting a "collaborative scientific process" as part of the writing of a new NOAA Fisheries' biological opinion for the federal Columbia River power system.

Two weeks ago, U.S. District Court Judge James A. Redden told the federal government that, even if it prolongs the process, he wants state and tribal representatives to be more involved in the processes now under way to build the scientific foundation for the new BiOp.

Redden in May 2003 declared the existing BiOp in violation of the Endangered Species and gave NOAA one year (from June 2, 2003) to correct the deficiencies. In ordering the remand he said the project should be undertaken in collaboration with the state and tribal co-managers.

This week's letter from states and tribes proposes that "collaboration should occur in three stages: (1) scoping; (2) co-manager review of the data and work in specified, prioritized areas; and (3) workshops to discuss questions, concerns and suggestions arising from that review."

The full letter, which can be found at http://www.salmonrecovery.gov/R_Handouts.shtml, offers a description of each step and a projected timeline.

The letter was prepared by David Leith, Oregon assistant attorney general, and sent to U.S. Department of Justice attorney Fred Disheroon on behalf of the states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho and the Nez Perce Tribe, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation.

"The third and final step of the process -- the actual collaboration -- is for the federal and co-manager scientists on each of the identified projects to meet and discuss questions and concerns. This last stage should be interactive and independently facilitiated," propose states and tribes.

"To ensure a candid discussion of the science, the participants must commit -- and the co-managers do hereby commit -- to a "good-faith" umbrella over these meetings. Consistent with this commitment of good faith, the participants must agree that the contents of the discussion among the collaborating scientists shall not be used by or against any party in this litigation."

The states and tribes predict that with this collaboration will require "no more than a 60-day extension of the current remand schedule."





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