COLUMBIA RIVER, Washington – An organization in the Pacific Northwest has filed a complaint against the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for allegedly illegally polluting the Columbia River, in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) federal.
Guardian of the Columbia River, a Hood River, Oregon nonprofit, says several dams operated by USACE, including the Dalles Dam, John Day Dam, and McNary Dam, release oil and toxic chemicals and raise water temperature to an inappropriate degree for fish. and wildlife.
The lawsuit demands that the Army Corps obtain CWA permits “to otherwise” restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. “
But this is not the first time that the association has sued USACE.
They filed a complaint in 2013 for a similar situation. This lawsuit was settled in 2014 and, according to Columbia Riverkeeper officials, USACE agreed to seek the necessary permits that would place regulatory limits on its discharges of heated water, grease and oil from dams over a period of time. of seven years.
However, that multi-year period ended on August 14, 2021 and the lawsuit argues that the body did not obtain these permits.
Now Columbia Riverkeeper officials have said they need to take legal action again in an attempt to protect and restore the waters.
Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of the association, said its disappointing solutions had not been developed.
âWe are trying to protect the cool, clean water so the salmon can survive,â VandenHeuvel said. âPeople care about this. People want to see salmon survive and thrive, but we are not seeing it in action by our federal government. It’s a step on the way to trying to say okay, we can’t keep the status quo, it’s not working, we have to take it seriously.
According to the lawsuit, scientists estimate that more than “277,000 sockeye, about 55% of the total return returning from the ocean to spawn, have died in the Columbia and Snake rivers due to high water temperatures.”
For VandenHeuvel, this is unacceptable.
“If we do nothing about this hot water crisis caused by the dams, then we will see the salmon runs disappear,” said VandenHeuvel. “Salmon are so important to our culture, to our economy, to the people of the Pacific Northwest, and the fact that we are having conversations about extinction is heartbreaking.”
Studies show that dam water temperature can impact endangered salmon and rainbow trout. VandenHeuvel added that one solution would be to remove some of the dams in the Pacific Northwest.
âThey regularly spill and leak oil. The river is too hot for the salmon to survive long term because of the stagnant reservoirs behind the dams, âsaid VandenHeuvel. âSalmon need cold, clear water to survive. Hot water is a silent killer and we believe the government can do better with it as well. “
Washington Governor Jay Inslee said on Dec. 14 he would announce his legislative and budget proposals for salmon protection in 2022, citing climate change, habitat loss and pollution.
âI want to be able to tell my children, and their children, that we are doing everything we can to protect this miraculous species,â said VandenHeuvel.
USACE sent KAPP-KVEW this statement:
âWe just learned about the trial last week and will coordinate with the Department of Justice to determine the appropriate next steps. The US Army Corps of Engineers applied for the permits at issue in this complaint in 2015, and we take our obligations under the Clean Water Act seriously. Our team works tirelessly to find solutions that balance all system objectives, including the needs of fish and wildlife, flood risk management, navigation, power generation, recreation, water supply and water quality. To dispel misinformation, USACE notes that the Columbia Riverkeeper press release does not accurately describe our ability to manage water behind dams in the lower Columbia River. Although the basins behind dams in the lower Columbia River are considered reservoirs, they are largely not storage reservoirs, but rather run-of-river facilities. This limits our ability to influence water temperatures by lowering water levels in the spring. “
See the full trial here.
To sign a petition urging Governor Inslee and others to “take action”, click here.
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