A federal judge has drawn strong criticism from a top House committee chairman for ordering federal authorities to consider removing dams as a way to protect salmon in the Northwest.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings fired off a warning shot in the direction of U.S. District Court Judge James Redden, threatening to block any attempt by the Portland, Oregon, jurist to remove hydropower dams in the Columbia River Basin.
“Not only is dam removal an extreme action that would be devastating to the Pacific Northwest’s economy, and is not proven to recover fish, Judge Redden has zero authority to order the removal of dams and the agencies have no authority to breach dams,” the Washington Republican said in statement issued by his committee. “Only Congress can authorize removal of the Northwest’s federal dams and I can definitively state that this will not happen on my watch.”
The specter of dam removal came up in an order issued by Redden earlier this week demanding improvements in a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plan to protect salmon and steelhead habitats under the Endangered Species Act that have been damaged by dam systems.
Redden said the current plan, which relies on spillways and other efforts to help restore habitat, is fine until 2013. But he insisted that more aggressive action will be necessary and told NOAA officials to consider “dam removal and/or additional water augmentation and reservoir modification” to avoid jeopardy.
The battle over fish habitats in the Northwest has been going on for years, with environmentalists squaring off against state and federal authorities in court. But Hastings said the time has come for the “never-ending circle of litigation and judicial whim” to end.”
“At some point reason and common sense need to prevail over an activist judge who is intent on keeping dam removal on the table and keeping this issue tied up in his courtroom for years,” he said.
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