Federal judge calls Bush admin’s salmon plan fishy

In a strongly worded opinion, U.S. District Judge James Redden yesterday ruled that the Bush administration’s salmon-protection plan for the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Northwest is “contrary to law” because it doesn’t take into account how dams affect the fish’s chances of recovery. This is the third time in 12 years that the government’s plan has been thrown out in court during battles over limited water supplies sought both for operating hydropower plants in the Northwest and for sustaining salmon populations that have been hammered by overfishing and habitat disturbance. The plan rejected by the judge included $6 billion worth of hydropower-dam improvements that would have been made over a decade to ease the salmon’s plight, but the environmentalists, fishing groups, and Indian tribes that brought the legal challenge against the plan point to this spring’s dramatic drop in returning chinook salmon and say small improvements are not enough. Some enviros say dams just need to be knocked down altogether to save the fish.