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Judge: Salmon plan falls short

Federal Judge James Redden this afternoon struck down the federal government’s plan for managing salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Judge Redden wrote in the 24-page court ruling that the federal government’s reliance on habitat restoration fails to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead, as the Endangered Species Act requires.

The ruling means the federal agency has again failed to come to court with a long-term plan to protect salmon that travel past eight federal dams.

Judge Redden said in the ruling that he will allow the current management plan, called a biological opinion, to remain in place to give the lead federal agency time to return with the necessary changes.

"The most important thing of substance is that the judge has said that he wants to leave the biological opinion in place until the end of 2013 as the kind of governing document to tell the other federal agencies how to operate the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers," said Brian Gorman, a spokesman for NOAA Fisheries.

Judge Redden gave the federal agency until 2014 to return with a new plan or make the necessary changes to the existing plan.