In a precedent-setting ruling, federal district court Judge John Coughenour has restricted the use of 38 pesticides near salmon streams and has required point-of-sale warnings on products containing pesticides that may harm salmon. The ruling came in a case brought by fishing and conservation groups.
"This is a landmark decision that finally gives salmon relief from pesticides after a decade of agency inaction," said Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice attorney who represented the groups. "The court has blocked the use of the most harmful pesticides along salmon streams until the government has ensured that salmon will be protected."
The ruling followed Judge Coughenour's 2002 decision that found EPA out of compliance with the Endangered Species Act for failing to protect salmon from harmful pesticides. The judge ordered EPA to consult with NOAA Fisheries to establish permanent restrictions needed to protect salmon from 54 pesticides, over a two-and-a-half year timeline. After the 2002 ruling, environmental and fishing groups filed for an injunction to reduce contamination of salmon streams while EPA and NOAA Fisheries develop permanent restrictions.
Today's ruling puts in place no-spray buffers of 100 yards for aerial applications and 20 yards for ground applications, with exceptions for certain uses that are unlikely to pollute water.
The court order also requires this warning for products containing seven pesticides that have polluted urban salmon streams.
This product contains pesticides that may harm salmon or steelhead.
Use of this product in urban areas can pollute salmon streams.
These warnings must be provided to purchasers in urban home and garden stores throughout Washington, Oregon, and California.
"Now consumers buying lawn and garden products can easily make informed choices that are better for salmon," said Aimee Code of the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides. She applauded the court's decision stating, "It imposes simple and effective measures to protect salmon."
The interim measures imposed in the court's ruling will protect salmon from these pesticides during the time it will take EPA to comply with the law. The judge found "with reasonable scientific certainty, that the requested buffer zones – 20 yards for ground applications, 100 yards for aerial applications – will, unlike the status quo, substantially contribute to the prevention of jeopardy" to salmon. He further found that the evidence "demonstrate[s] that pesticide-application buffer zones are a common, simple, and effective strategy to avoid jeopardy to threatened and endangered salmonids."
"There is no 'right' to pollute rivers, kill fish and destroy public resources our people depend on for their livelihoods," said Glen Spain of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, a commercial fishing industry group and a co-plaintiff in the suit. "Most of these chemicals are not supposed to be used near water to begin with, but they are nevertheless showing up in our rivers where they can kill valuable fisheries. Reasonable buffer zones to keep these poisons out of our rivers only make sense."
The buffer zones will become effective in early 2004 and will apply to salmon streams that support threatened and endangered salmon throughout Washington, Oregon, and California.
"Our streams and rivers should provide clean water for salmon to thrive in - instead they're a toxic soup of hazardous pesticides," said Erika Schreder of the Washington Toxics Coalition. "This court decision forces EPA to enforce current law and protect endangered salmon from the impacts of pesticides."
Patti Goldman, Earthjustice, 206-343-7340 ex 32
Erika Schreder, WTC, 206-632-1545, ex 19
Aimee Code, NCAP, 541-344-5044, ex 27
Glen Spain, PCFFA, 541-689-2000
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