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Conservation and Fishing Groups Challenge Army Corps' Decision

Environmental and fishing groups ask a federal judge to order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address water quality standard violations caused by the operation of four dams on the lower Snake River.
June 8, 2001
Portland, OR —

A coalition of environmental and fishing groups asked a federal court judge to order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address water quality standard violations caused by the operation of four dams on the lower Snake River. The motion comes on the heels of an Army Corps' decision that disclaims responsibility for water temperature standard violations.

"The Corps has thumbed its nose at the Court," said Kristen Boyles, an attorney with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. "The Court ordered the Corps to address the temperature problem, but the agency blatantly refused."


On February 16, 2001, a federal district court judge ruled that the Corps had violated the Clean Water Act in making its decisions about operation of the four federal dams on the lower Snake River. The district court ordered the Corps to issue a new decision that complied with the Clean Water Act. However, the Corps' decision violates the Court order because it fails to address high water temperatures that harm endangered fish and water quality.

"The Corps is ignoring the compelling evidence and basing its salmon policy on wishful thinking," said Glenn Spain of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "The Corps is in denial about the major Clean Water Act problems throughout the Snake River system. Inaction does the region and the salmon absolutely no good."

"It's no wonder our salmon are in so much trouble when you have the Army Corps continually denying that there is a problem and spurning the judgment of the court," said Bill Arthur of Sierra Club.

In its ruling, the district court found that "a review of the administrative record convinces the Court that the operation of the dams on the lower Snake River has a significant effect on the exceedences of state water quality standards." National Wildlife Fed'n v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 132 F. Supp.2d 876, 892 (D. Or. 2001). The Army Corps ignored this language and the large amount of evidence discussed by the Court. The Army Corps even failed to address a 1999 study by the Environmental Protection Agency that showed that the dams cause temperature standard violations.

"There are short-term and long-term implications from the Court's ruling," said John Kober of National Wildlife Federation. "For the short-term, the Corps must propose measures to begin to comply with the Clean Water Act. For the long-term, the Corps must reevaluate its decision to put off breaching the dams. But first we must force the Corps to confront the problem."

A ruling on the issue is expected later this summer.

Contacts

Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice: 206-343-7340 x33

John Kober, NWF: 206-696-1706

Glen Spain, PCFFA: 541-521-8655/541-689-2000

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.