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Press Release of Senator Cantwell
Cantwell Seeks to Remove Controversial Language that Disturbs New Salmon Protection Plan
Wednesday, September 19,2007
WASHINGTON, DC – Wednesday, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) asked the Interior Appropriations Subcommitteeto remove a controversial provision that would threaten an ongoing collaborative process for Columbia and Snake River salmon under the Endangered Species Act. In a letter, Cantwell reminded the Committee that by court order, the federal government has been working for two years with state and tribal governments to complete a new environmental proposal to protect the Snake and Columbia River salmon and steelhead populations in compliance with Environmental Species Act regulations.
“It’s important that we get the salmon recovery plan right,” said Cantwell. “For the past two years, a court-ordered collaborative process has been underway to ensure that the plan put in place not only complies with ESA, but reflects an important regional dialogue. We need to ensure that this independent process stays on track for October and is not hijacked by politics along the way.”
The federal government proposed a salmon recovery plan two years ago which was struck down by the federal courts because it did not comply with the Environmental Species Act. The court required the federal government to begin the process currently underway.
On October31, the federal government will submit a draft outline of its plan to operate federal dams while preserving salmon populations. The language Cantwell is seeking to remove would have reinstated the invalidated 2005 federal government proposal and terminated ongoing cooperative efforts.
The full text of Senator Cantwell’s letter follows below:
September 19, 2007
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Chair, Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairwoman Feinstein:
From the San Joaquin River to the Puget Sound, recovery of the 26 Pacific salmon and steelhead species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act is vital to communities up and down the West Coast. In the Northwest, federal agencies, together with state and tribal governments, have been working for nearly two years on a new proposal to preserve Lower Snake and Columbia River Basin salmon and steelhead populations under a federal court order. I write today to express my concern with a provision in the Senate Interior Appropriations bill (S. 1696) that would direct federal agencies to implement the invalid 2005 Upper Snake BiOp, and to respectfully seek your assistance with removing the language prior to the bill’s final passage.
Section 127 of the Senate Interior Appropriations bill (S. 1696) urges the Secretary of Interior to implement the 2005 Upper Snake River Basin Biological Opinion “without further delay.” However, in May 2006, a federal district court in Portland, Oregon, ruled that this biological opinion (BiOp) violated the Endangered Species Act. Specifically, the Court found that the upper Snake BiOp “did not consider the combined effects of the proposed action…and thus did not provide the comprehensive review that was required under the Endangered Species Act.” The government did not appeal that decision, and a new Upper Snake River BiOp is currently being drafted by federal agencies, working with state and tribal governments, as part of a collaborative process. The new BiOp is due to the federal district court on October 31, 2007.
Congressional intervention at this point in the proceedings would not only undermine the ongoing federal administrative and regional collaborative process, but the judicial process as well. In addition, it could further threaten salmon in the Columbia-Snake River Basin, and the communities that depend on them, by delaying the development of a legally valid BiOp. In the interest of respecting the judicial process and the collaborative development of a legally enforceable BiOp to protect salmon and steelhead populations, I respectfully request your assistance in removing this controversial and unnecessary language before S. 1696 moves through the Senate.
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)