Salmon, steelhead and angling advocates are cheering a federal appeals court decision today reaffirming a judge’s requirement for more spring spill on the Columbia and Snake.
“Fish WIN!” reads the subject line of a press release emailed out from the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.
The news comes a day before spill operations are set to begin on the river system, the purpose of which is to help more young ESA-listed Chinook, coho, steelhead and other species get to sea safely.
The National Marine Fisheries Service had appealed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Michael Simon a year ago, but a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it.
The press release from NSIA and others including the National Wildlife Federation points to key wording in the decision:
The district court properly concluded that the listed species remain in a “precarious” state, and that they will remain in such a state without further conservation efforts beyond those included in the 2014 BiOp.
. . .
Significant evidence from decades of studies show[s] that spill volumes higher than those proposed in the 2014 BiOp will lead to higher survival rates for outmigrating [juvenile salmon].
The ruling comes at a key moment as salmon stocks struggle with aftereffects from The Blob.
“Fewer fish could be a nail in the coffin for more iconic Northwest fishing brands,” NSIA’s Liz Hamilton said. “I know of companies trying to decide whether this is their last year in existence – brands that fishermen would recognize and recommend. We need hope, not more despair. And at the spill level the court required – and that has now been affirmed on appeal – we are going to see larger adult salmon returns.”
Others involved in the win include the state of Oregon, Nez Perce Tribe, state chapters of the National Wildlife Federation, Salmon For All and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.
The states of Washington, Idaho and Montana as well as Northwest River partners, among others, sided with NMFS.
Hamilton said that fears spill would mean less electricity were a “false alarm” as water and wind are at a surplus for turbines to turn this time of year.