KENNEWICK, Wash., July 10, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association (CSRIA) has recently sent a formal letter to the Office of the Engineer Inspector General of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Office of the Inspector General of U.S. Department of Commerce (NOAA Fisheries) requesting that they formally investigate the Columbia River Fish Managers' decision (in 2015) to allow Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed salmon and steelhead migrations to remain in the Lower Snake River during extremely poor in-river conditions, rather than rely on the USACE's successful juvenile fish transportation program. The letter states that "…the fish were exposed to adverse river conditions that almost certainly proved fatal, and have contributed to the low adult fish returns now occurring in 2017."
Records show that the Fish Managers deviated from the legally required ESA BiOp "spread the risk" policy in the spring 2015, when they transported only 13% of juvenile salmon and steelhead during low flow and high temperature conditions at a time when young fish are the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of remaining in the river. This was the lowest percent of fish transported since records were first kept in 1993.
The letter also states that "The action defied sound judgement…In addition to failing to meet their legal ESA obligation to optimize fish survival, the Fish Managers overlooked their obligation to create a transparent administrative record showing why they made this unusual decision. The available records show that NOAA Fisheries' scientists attempted to obtain agreement for an early start date to transportation to get the juvenile fish out of the river during poor survival condition; however, other agency Fish Managers did not support this crucial action. For reasons not reflected in the record, the Corps apparently felt helpless to act on NOAA Fisheries' repeated requests."
The letter goes on to say that "In the long run, CSRIA believes the only practical alternative is to invoke a hydro project exemption, allowed under the ESA statute, commonly called the 'God Squad' review." In particular, CSRIA has requested the U.S. Dept. of Interior to take the first step toward this process.
Furthermore, the letter states that "In the short run, we will need to live with the ESA litigation process and attempt to make intelligent management decisions regarding ESA-listed fish. There is no more critical decision to make than when to transport juvenile salmon and steelhead, and when to leave them in the river. Although it is too early to calculate the precise effect of the 2015 decisions, initial indicators reveal that the Fish Managers' judgement likely killed significant quantities of ESA-listed fish."
For more information, contact Darryll Olsen of Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association at 509-783-1623 or email@example.com.
About Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association
The Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association (www.csria.org) is a leading organization in promoting water conservation and water efficiency in the Pacific Northwest. CSRIA's membership includes row crop, vineyard, orchard and livestock operations and we irrigate about 250,000 acres of prime agricultural lands in Washington State and primarily consist of operations along the Columbia-Snake River system, relying almost exclusively on private investment to build and operate highly efficient, state-of-the-art river pump stations and water distribution systems. Additionally, many municipalities and port districts are members of CSRIA. In economic terms, CSRIA members annually generate about $475-600 million in state and local income by purchasing goods and services from numerous economic sectors, ranging from paper products and food packaging to financial, legal and marketing services.
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SOURCE Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association