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Fishing groups plan legal fight in dam decision

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Bush administration's recent conclusion that dams pose no threat of driving endangered salmon extinct is facing a federal court challenge by conservation and fishing groups.

Opponents, including the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, assert that the policy set by the National Marine Fisheries Service fails to protect and restore salmon and steelhead as required by the Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit, to be filed in 60 days, is part of the groups' larger effort to have four dams removed on the lower Snake River in order to restore once-abundant fish stocks.

Bush administration officials have dismissed dam removal from consideration, arguing that the Endangered Species Act authorizes the fisheries service to consider only how the dams will be operated, not whether they should exist.

U.S. District Judge James Redden, presiding over the ongoing legal battle of the dams, raised several questions about the legal and scientific footing for the government's position earlier this year.

"I am concerned," he said, "about whether or not there is a train wreck in our future."

-- Joe Rojas-Burke


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