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Federal Ruling Validates FWS
Gulf Sturgeon Opinion

July 22, 2010

Florida – A federal judge on Wednesday affirmed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2008 biological opinion related to federally protected species in Florida’s Apalachicola River.

In the opinion, Service biologists determined that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s reservoir operations would not jeopardize the survival of the Gulf sturgeon, a fish listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and three freshwater mussel species: the fat threeridge, listed as endangered, and the purple bankclimber and Chipola slabshell, listed as threatened. U.S. District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson’s order determined the Service acted properly under the ESA and its own regulations.

“We are gratified by Judge Magnuson’s order, which acknowledges the Service’s scientific expertise in forecasting the effect of flows on listed species,” said Cynthia Dohner, the Southeast Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Our biological opinion was based on the best science available, and we haven’t stopped there. We continue to monitor the species and the habitats affected by the federal dams on the Chattahoochee River to better understand the total impact on federally protected species.”

Dohner said the Service has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the Corps crafts a new Water Control Plan that will determine future operations of the federal dams on the Chattahoochee River. Once a draft plan is ready, the Service will consult with the Corps on impacts to endangered species as directed by the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.

“Our priority is the recovery of these endemic species to the Apalachicola River,” Dohner said. “They are prime indicators of a healthy river basin. Their survival is linked to our own.”


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