07:02 PM

Federal Government’s Recycled, Flawed Plan Won’t Save Pallid Sturgeon



Melanie Gade, Defenders of Wildlife: mgade@defenders.org; 202-772-0288

Josh Mogerman, NRDC, jmogerman@nrdc.org; 312-651-7909

Date: May 27, 2016

Federal Government’s Recycled, Flawed Plan Won’t Save Pallid Sturgeon

GLENDIVE, Mont. – Conservation groups reacted to a recommended proposal from the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for revising operations of the Intake Dam on the Yellowstone River today, calling it far short of what is needed to save the nation’s largest wild population of endangered pallid sturgeon from extinction.  

Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council successfully challenged a previous version of the dam proposal in court last year. The groups note that this week’s draft environmental impact statement proposes the same thing: an even larger and more permanent dam and an artificial fish bypass channel around the new dam, a proposal fish biologists believe is extremely unlikely to help sturgeon. This proposal is essentially unchanged from a proposal the agencies submitted over 10 months ago, which was struck down in court over threats the project posed to endangered pallid sturgeon.

Following are statements from Defenders and NRDC:

Jonathan Proctor, Rockies and Plains program director for Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:

“Spending any money on a plan that is likely to fail is a waste of taxpayer dollars and a waste of time that the sturgeon simply doesn’t have. An open river alternative that guarantees passage for the sturgeon and other fish while also delivering irrigation water is the clear solution. This is a species that has been on the planet since the age of the dinosaur. Is the Army Corps of Engineers really unwilling to make adjustments to prevent it from going extinct? Is the Obama administration willing to let this magnificent and ancient fish disappear on its watch? We need to right the ship now before the pallid sturgeon is added to the list of species that went extinct because we failed to act wisely.”

Kate Poole, Water and Wildlife Project director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) notes:

“Pallid sturgeon have survived the extinction of the dinosaurs and the last ice age, but they won’t make it past these hard-headed dam-building proposals from the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation. It’s pretty amazing to see them come back from losing in court to propose essentially the same thing. We need bigger thinking from the agencies, not a bigger dam.”

Background: Biologists agree that the best way to save the pallid sturgeon population in the Yellowstone River is to remove the rock dam at Intake, Montana and restore a free-flowing river. Removing this outdated rock structure would give pallid sturgeon access to an additional 165 miles of river, providing the best chance for the sturgeon to once again successfully reproduce. By installing a system that delivers water to irrigators without relying on a dam, implementing conservation measures that modernize operations to use less water (making pumping necessary only during a portion of the growing season) and using free or low-cost power to reduce costs for the irrigators, sturgeon will regain access to prime spawning habitat and farmers will get the water they need. At least two of the other alternatives presented in the analysis provide for full river access for sturgeon and should be further considered and refined.


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @defendersnews.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at http://www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.