Columbia and Snake River Get Prescribed Spills to Help Salmon and Steelhead

Thomas James Caldwell photo

Columbia-Snake River salmon and steelhead, thanks to a ruling this week by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon, will see increased water releases over spillways at eight Columbia and Snake dams, helping ocean-migrating smolts navigate the concrete cluttered basin.

An injunction filed by the State of Oregon, Nez Perce Tribe, and Earthjustice—on behalf of conservation and fishing groups—said that extra “spill” is a critical stop-gap measure to the survival of chinook and steelhead runs listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), especially during low, warm water years like 2015.

The courts have mandated extra water “spill” on a yearly basis since 2005. But this injunction makes that a semi-permanent action—beginning in 2018—and continuing until the feds can come up with a legit recovery plan for the ESA listed fish.

That’s a big deal, because so far the federal plans we’ve seen smelled like hot garbage to the courts. And judges have rejected every…

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