To this point, U.S. District Judge James Redden has consistently made lousy decisions as he rendered judgments regarding the federal government's effort to balance wild salmon survival with generating power from the dams on the Columbia River. Redden has rejected three different federal plans largely because taking down the dams was not a viable option.
But last week the judge finally made a good call -- he asked this case be reassigned to another judge.
Redden should have stepped aside years ago. It's been clear Redden has been fixated on dam breaching at the expense of common sense.
While the federal government's plans have not been perfect, they all seemed to be reasonable as they considered science, economics and reality. The fact is breaching the dams would be a disaster for humans without ensuring salmon survival.
A decade ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a study on breaching the Snake River dams. The Corps considered a variety of factors and ultimately concluded that dam breaching would do more harm than good. The Corps said dam breaching would increase the chances of salmon restoration only slightly -- if at all -- while taking a huge toll on the economy of the region.
Power rates would increase and so would pollution as hydropower -- a clean, renewable energy source -- would have to be replaced with power plants, many of them fueled by coal or natural gas.
Eastern Washington would be hit particularly hard as the loss of dams would cause flooding, put more trucks on the road as grain and other commodities could not be barged to market, and eliminate irrigation to many farms.
And given the current situation in this country -- and the world -- Congress is not going to allow this to occur. Dam breaching, even if salmon survival could be guaranteed, is an option that is off the table.
Redden should have been focusing on reasonable, realistic solutions rather than pushing his fringe views.
It was announced this week that the salmon case has been assigned to District Judge Michael Simon, who was confirmed to the bench in June by the U.S. Senate.
We hope Simon takes a more pragmatic view than Redden so a reasonable and effective salmon recovery plan can move forward.