Our First Attempt to Get Salmon Bureaucrats to Look Beyond the Dams

All of us could see that other federal agencies had not begun to approach the enormous efforts of BPA, the Corps and the Bureau to comply with the Endangered Species Act. Most of them had yet to begin the consultation process required by  7 of the Endangered Species Act. There was considerable doubt as to whether some agencies, like the Bureau of Land Management, ever would. As we interviewed government employees to get a handle on the situation, we found that they would point the finger at other agencies, giving us further leads.

After a considerable amount of investigation, I drafted a broadly-based complaint that focused on the federal government's failure to reform harvest, habitat management and hatchery management. We filed it in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. It was assigned to Judge Malcolm Marsh.

We were joined in our efforts by Erick Johnson, Bill Masters and Dan Lindahl, lawyers representing the Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative, a cooperative providing generation and transmission service for 29 rural electric cooperatives. They filed their own complaint, adding a claim that the government had failed to pursue a comprehensive approach to analysis of effects on salmon, and thereby erred in its application of the Endangered Species Act to hydropower operations. Greg Minor and Cynthia Rutzick represented the Public Power Council, a non-profit corporation representing 114 public power entities in the Pacific Northwest. They also filed a separate complaint. All three complaints were consolidated under the name PNGC v. Brown.

Judge Marsh had presided for several years over another salmon case: United States v. Oregon, where states and tribes had long fought, sometimes bitterly, over the allocation of salmon harvested from the Columbia River. Initially, we were hopeful that Judge Marsh's experience with United States v. Oregon would give him a useful familiarity with salmon issues. As time passed, we were more and more discouraged to discover he was not merely familiar with the issues, but also appeared to have absorbed from the fishery interests an anti-dam and pro-harvest dogma.

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