17 May 2010, 10:54am
Latest Wildlife News
by admin

Stelle returns to role as Pacific Northwest’s ’salmon chief’

The Obama administration has picked the chief architect of one of the failed Columbia Basin salmon restoration plans of the past …

By JEFF BARNARD, Seattle PI, May 14, 2010 [here]

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The Obama administration has picked the chief architect of one of the failed Columbia Basin salmon-restoration plans of the past to implement a new plan it hopes will finally pass legal muster.

Will Stelle takes over June 1 as northwest administrator of NOAA Fisheries Service in Seattle.

He held the post under the Clinton administration from 1994 to 2000, when many of the 13 protected stocks of Columbia Basin salmon were first put on threatened and endangered species lists. The government was also struggling to find a way to make hydroelectric dams, which are an important source of power in the region, less lethal to fish.

In a teleconference Friday, Stelle said he is not surprised none of the salmon that went on the endangered species list have come off. …

Stelle oversaw development of the 2000 plan for balancing dams against salmon, known as a “biological opinion,” which was struck down by the same federal judge weighing the current plan, U.S. Circuit Judge James Redden. Four of the five plans have failed to survive legal challenges.

The 2000 biological opinion acknowledged that it may be necessary to breach four dams on the lower Snake River in Eastern Washington. …

Salmon advocates and Rep. Doc Hasting, R-Wash., were both unhappy with Stelle’s appointment. …

Hastings, who opposes dam breaching, sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke asking for detailed disclosures from Stelle about any conflicts of interest that may have developed during the last 10 years he worked as a Seattle natural resources attorney.

“With this selection, the administration has apparently decided to take a step backward into the controversies of the past, rather than selecting a new person who could lead this agency into a fresh start,” Hastings wrote. … [more]

Note: See also Spring Chinook Report April 30th [here] which reports record salmon runs, largely due to changing ocean conditions and having nothing to do with hydroelectric dams.

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