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NW Fishletter #331, April 24, 2014

[7] Irrigators Ask Govs To Convene God Squad Over ESA Salmon Issues

The Columbia-Snake Irrigators Association sent an April 17 letter to the governors of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, asking them to convene the little-used "God Squad" to "halt excessive and unbridled litigation directed toward the region's electric power ratepayers."

The seven-member God Squad, headed by Secretary of the Interior, has the power to override government decisions with respect to ESA enforcement. Other squad members are the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of the Army, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and one individual from the affected state.

The irrigators' letter said the latest 60-day notice of intent to sue filed by fishing groups in the 9th Circuit Court deliberately ignores the dramatic improvements to most fish runs in the Columbia Basin. "By now," said the letter, "it should be apparent that some malcontents will always preach that river system operations "jeopardize" the continued existence of the fish. More precisely, the vagueness and ever-expanding definition of the statutory term "jeopardize" means that so long as some micro-index fish run, in some minor tributary somewhere, does not bountifully flourish, the mainstem river operators should be unjustifiably held responsible, and should be subjected to tribute payments via extractive litigation."

The letter says federal agencies, along with states and tribes, "perhaps have developed the most comprehensive ecosystem planning program in the world; and ratepayers have principally funded the program measures," but more litigation will transcend sound resource management, as "extreme environmental elements" will keep court actions going "so long as the last rate payer stands."

The irrigators said convening the God Squad could "end this nonsense" by exempting further river 'mitigation' from the ESA, and finalizing reasonable enhancement measures. -B. R.

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