As reported by Kristi Pihl of the Tri-City Herald earlier this week, the Columbia-Snake Irrigators Association has requested that the Governors of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho proceed through the "God Squad" process under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) to seek to exempt those who operate on the rivers from having to provide any further mitigation for the local salmon and steelhead populations.
In the 1979 amendments to the ESA, Congress created the Endangered Species Act Committee (aka, the "God Squad"). The God Squad has the authority to exempt an agency action from the requirements of section 7(a)(2) of the ESA if the God Squad makes certain determinations. The God Squad is composed of seven members: the Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of the Army, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Secretary of the Interior, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and one individual from the affected State, as determined by the Secretary of the Interior and appointed by the President. The God Squad process is initiated when a Federal agency, a Governor of the State in which an agency action will occur, or in certain circumstances, a permit or license applicant, submits an application to the Secretary of Commerce or Secretary of the Interior (the recipient of the application depends upon which species is being impacted). In order for the exemption to be granted, five out of the seven members of the God Squad must vote in favor of the exemption.
As stated in the report by Kristi Pihl, the request was prompted by a notice of intent to sue sent to the Bonneville Power Administration alleging that the company had failed to comply with the ESA.