Court rules against Bush administration’s fish-protection plan

The Great Judicial Smackdown of 2007 continued this week, with a federal appeals court ruling that the Bush administration’s plan for “protecting” fish on the Northwest’s Columbia and Snake rivers violates the Endangered Species Act. The feds had claimed that the rivers’ hydroelectric dams could be made safe for the 13 listed salmon and steelhead species that must navigate them. They also said that since the dams were built before the ESA became law, they shouldn’t be considered for removal or alteration. But the three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court called that argument “little more than an analytical sleight of hand” and issued a stern reminder that, when it comes to the ESA, “compliance is not optional.” The coalition of sporting and environmental groups that had challenged the plan was pleased by the ruling, with a Sierra Club regional director saying, “Two decades of federal failure and dishonesty must stop here.” He added, “Our region needs a scientifically sound, economically viable solution.” Good luck.