US District Judge James Redden in Portland ruled in favour of a challenge by environmentalists, Indian tribes and fisherman, saying that the plan violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to protect salmon. This is the second time Redden has rejected the plan –he previously ruled that a biological opinion issued by the administration was illegal.

Under the Endangered Species Act, the National Oceanic and Atomosphereic Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) was required to decide whether the federally operated dams on the Columbia and lower Snake rivers jeopardised the survival of threatened and endangered salmon, and if they did, propose ways to overcome the harm.

In 2004, NOAA Fisheries released a new biological opinion which it said addressed issues imposed by the federal court and went beyond the legal requirements to protect salmon and steelhead. Investments had been made to aid juvenile salmon to pass safely through spillways, including installing removable spillways weirs.

However, Redden’s ruling means that NOAA Fisheries may now have to come up with a new plan to balance the region’s power needs with those of the salmon.

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