Federal court ruling expected to affect salmon conservation

A federal court ruling could affect salmon recovery and conservation efforts on the Columbia-Snake River System in Washington.

A Dec. 20 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals mandating a salmon protection plan was related to warm river temperatures caused by dams on the Snake River, The Daily News reports.

Washington's Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee released a report on the same day summarizing statements about the consequences of removing Snake River dams.

The appeals court upheld a 2018 ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency was obligated to create a management plan for water temperature on the Columbia and Snake rivers, court documents said.

The lower court decision came after Washington and Oregon failed to submit plans for approval.

The ruling was the result of a lawsuit by environmental groups that said they brought the action as a response to years of record-high river water temperatures that hurt salmon, including 250,000 adult sockeye salmon deaths in 2015.

There are 13 populations of Columbia-Snake River salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act, the Natural Resources Defense Council said.

The new ruling enables the progression of a long-term effort to improve salmon recovery rates on the two rivers.

Inslee's first-draft report released Dec. 20 summarizes comments concerning the removal of four Lower Snake River dams to potentially boost salmon populations and help feed orca, also known as killer whales.

Washington state legislators provided $750,000 in the 2019-2021 budget for Inslee’s “orca task force” to conduct the study of stakeholders in the issue.

The 115-page document is based on interviews with nearly 100 agency leaders and online survey responses from more than 3,500 Washington residents.