Federal, tribal, state and fishing parties appear to have agreed to ask a judge for another stay in a long-running challenge over dam operations on the lower Snake River so that negotiations can continue outside court.
The 45-day pause “will allow the parties in the litigation … to present a proposed package of actions and commitments to other regional sovereigns and parties to the litigation and then work toward final review and approval of those actions and commitments,” according to a press release out this afternoon from Earthjustice, which represents the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, National Wildlife Federation, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Fly Fishers International, among others, in the case.
The move effectively extends a stay that was set to expire today and if there’s still no resolution by December 15, plaintiffs and federal defendants are expected to “request a multi-year stay of the litigation while a proposed package and commitments to restore Snake River salmon is implemented – or they will return to court.”
The case has already been on stay for two years for talks.
Along with the fishing and conservation organizations, the state of Oregon and four Inland Northwest tribes – Nez Perce, Yakama, Umatilla and Warm Springs – say the federal government isn’t doing enough with the dam system on the Snake to prevent salmon and steelhead from going extinct.
“On an issue this important, we need to take more time to see if we can move forward outside of the courtroom,” said Earthjustice Senior Attorney Amanda Goodin in the release.
It’s not the only news on this front this fall. In late September, the White House issued an order to a host of federal agencies to use their authorities and resources – as well as assess what else they would need – “to restore these wild fish populations and help ensure that the United States upholds its treaty and trust responsibilities to the Tribes.”
That had plaintiffs in the Snake case applauding, including NSIA’s Liz Hamilton, who said in part, “The Memorandum has arrived not a moment too soon. We urgently need major changes in river operations to protect and restore these fish. The future of fishing, along with the economic benefits, hinges on the recovery efforts we put into place today.”