Few things stands so concretely in the way of improved salmon returns on the troubled Klamath River as four hydroelectric dams owned by PacifiCorp. So when federal agencies mandated that the company install fish ladders—and when the utility subsequently said it may consider removing the dams—both anglers and environmentalists celebrated. But now, standing in the way of either fish ladders or dam removals is a new provision under federal energy law that allows PacifiCorp a chance to get off the hook. An ongoing trial initiated by the utility marks the first to challenge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under the new provision. The administrative law judge’s ruling, which is expected in about a month, will determine PacifiCorp responsibilities and could play a significant role in the future of the Klamath River’s salmon fishery.