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Stay extension gives Snake River dam mediation another 60 days

Stay extension gives Snake River dam mediation another 60 days

A stay in long-running litigation over the Snake River dams has been extended for 60 days to allow federal mediation to continue, but ag and electrical utility stakeholders say they’re losing faith in the process.

A coalition of environmental and fishing groups, led by the Earthjustice law firm, in 2020 sued over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration dam operations plan.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service are continuing mediation during a stay of the litigation. The stay was scheduled to end Aug. 31, but will now end Oct. 31.

In the motion to extend the stay, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, the plaintiffs state that the mediation process has involved “primarily confidential caucuses that include a subset of litigation parties.”

“The discussions have been positive, and progress has been made, but the private caucus participants need more time to continue the discussions and expand them to involve the other parties and amicus in this case,” the motion states.

For example, the motion states, federal defendants and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the Spokane Tribe of Indians continue confidential discussions on a proposed agreement that could resolve two complaints-in-intervention and two petitions for review filed in the Ninth Circuit.

“These three tribes and the federal defendants believe they are close to concluding negotiations, after which time they intend to coordinate with the other litigation parties and amicus on any proposed agreement,” the motion states.

What stakeholders say

“We’re comfortable with extending for a couple of months, but we continue to have concerns with the process and our access to discussions of importance,” Heather Stebbings, policy adviser for the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, told the Capital Press.

Read the complete article here.

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