Representatives from environmental and conservation groups, local Oregon government officials, Northwest tribal government representatives, and federal agencies representing fisheries interests and departments of energy have been struggling to find an answer to questions surrounding the use of hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River basin. The river basin was once home to between 10 and 30 million wild salmon, but modern development – including the introduction of the dams, pollution, overfishing, and destruction of natural habitats – has resulted in dramatic decreases in those numbers. Dozens of populations are already extinct, and a great number are listed as endangered or threatened, a fact which is forcing regional policymakers to look more carefully at the programs currently in place for protecting the animals, both as a species and a natural resource.
A previous plan supported by the Bush administration has come under intense scrutiny, as a U.S. District Court Judge has stated that the plan is inadequate for protection of the salmon. The judge has not ruled out the possibility of requiring the removal of some of the dams – an option that has those agencies in charge of administering electricity to the region up in arms. All parties continue to look for a solution that will satisfy both environmental concerns with the region’s energy dependence upon hydropower.