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Former fisheries head Will Stelle named NW fisheries administrator

The Obama administration has selected Will Stelle to take over as northwest administrator of NOAA Fisheries Service in Seattle. Formerly, Stelle held the post under the Clinton administration.

From 1994 to 2000, many of the 13 protected stocks of Columbia Basin salmon were first put on threatened and endangered species lists, media reports indicate. In a recent interview, Stelle said he is not surprised none of the salmon that went on the endangered species list have come off, the Associated Press reported.

Stelle said he thought more progress has been made than he had expected with programs to restore salmon in the Columbia Basin, Puget Sound and coastal areas, the AP reported. Stelle said people do not deny that salmon need help but that it will take time.

Stelle oversaw development of the 2000 plan for balancing dams against salmon, known as a biological opinion, which was struck down by the same federal judge weighing the current plan, U.S. Circuit Judge James Redden. Four of the five plans have failed to survive legal challenges.

The 2000 biological opinion acknowledged that it may be necessary to breach four dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington. That position was tossed out by the Bush administration and revived in the Obama administration's revisions to the 2008 plan now in court, reports indicate.

A revised version of that plan, addressing problems identified by Redden, is due May 20.

Stelle takes over as northwest administrator June 1.

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