Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


One of the nation’s most longstanding environmental-energy conflicts concerns the plight of numerous Columbia Basin salmon species which must navigate the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS), a series of hydroelectric dams that make the basin one of the most highly developed in the world. Although the FCRPS dams produce a wealth of hydropower, the mortalities they cause due to the construction and operation of FCRPS dams led to Endangered Species Act listings for the basin’s salmon. Since those listings a quarter-century ago, the federal government has repeatedly failed to produce biological opinions that can survive judicial scrutiny. The latest round of litigation resulted in renewed directives from the federal district court of Oregon to revise the current biological opinion and to spill more water at several dams in the interim to facilitate juvenile salmon migration. The directive to increase spill was upheld by the Ninth Circuit in 2018, but the U.S. House of Representatives quickly voted to overturn that decision, and the Senate now has the matter under consideration.

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