U.S. officials are pressing a federal judge to lift his 2015 order blocking a proposed irrigation dam and fish passage on the Yellowstone River, warning that a rapidly-disappearing, ancient fish species faces a grim future with further delays to construction.
Fisheries biologists have questioned if the $57 million project near Glendive, Montana would indeed save the 125 wild pallid sturgeon that survive in the Yellowstone. For decades, the fish have been prevented from reaching hundreds of miles of upstream spawning habitat because of an existing rock weir at the proposed dam site.
Federal wildlife officials contend the fish passage around the site is the sturgeons' best hope.
Putting off the project any longer means it will likely lose funding, “costing the lives of many of the last wild pallids,” Michael Thabault, assistant regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a court document filed late Wednesday.