IRU & NGOs to stay in litigation for LSDRs

Published 8/19/2022  |  Idaho Rivers United

A lone steelhead jumps at Dagger Falls on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Photo credit: Neil Ever Osborne

Conservation organizations and fishing groups, including IRU, have joined the State of Oregon, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the United States in securing a further year-long pause or “stay” from the courts in the long running litigation surrounding endangered salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River Basin.

The initial nine month stay was due to expire at the end of July, and represented a significant step forward in the decades long effort to breach the four Lower Snake River Dams (LSRDs) in order to recover Idaho’s wild salmon runs. Biden Administration officials have utilized the stay thus far to make clear that past recovery efforts in the Basin have been unsuccessful with wild salmon populations no closer to recovery and in fact continuing in a long-term decline.

The close engagement on the issue Administration has been a welcomed acknowledgement that a new way forward is desperately needed for river stakeholders – particularly for Tribes, fishing communities, and the hundreds of species who have suffered from decades of meager, dwindling salmon returns.

Strong language in recently released federal reports underscored that 1) LSRD dam breaching is essential to recover Snake River salmon stocks and 2) replacing the energy generated by the LSRDs is possible with a portfolio of clean energy resources.

While the July deadline for salmon action has come and gone, IRU is still heartened by the strong foundation for salmon action the Administration has laid. Over the course of the new litigation stay, the Administration has agreed to establish a series of milestones, that if not met offer parties to the stay “off-ramps” and would allow for the resumption of litigation.

We remain committed at IRU to working with the federal government towards a region-wide salmon recovery plan that breaches the four LSRDs and invests in replacement services, and will not hesitate to hold the government accountable should there be no meaningful progress.

The work to pass Congressional legislation authorizing LSRD dam breaching and regional infrastructure investment will certainly benefit from the leadership of the White House, but also remains separate from the stay in federal litigation. In other words, IRU will continue to work with our partner organizations and Tribal allies to achieve decisive, urgent action on dam breaching in order to ensure Idaho’s wild salmon and steelhead runs have a viable future.