EPA Issues Permits

“It’s past time for the Army Corps to reduce illegal pollution from dams,” -Lauren Goldberg, Executive Director


EPA Issues Permits to Curb Oil and Heat Pollution from Columbia River Dams

Permits central to long-running litigation between Columbia Riverkeeper and Army Corps

Seattle, Wash. (December 15, 2022)—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued Clean Water Act permits to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) to reduce discharges of hot water, oil, and toxic chemicals from four aging dams on the Columbia River between Portland, Oregon, and Tri-Cities, Washington. In December 2021, Columbia Riverkeeper sued the Army Corps for illegally discharging pollution from these dams without Clean Water Act permits. 

The Army Corps’ aging dams routinely release oil into the Columbia and Snake rivers, as highlighted by a recent spill of over 300 gallons of oil from Little Goose dam. Columbia River dams also make the water too hot for endangered salmon and steelhead, according to government studies. Columbia Riverkeeper captured graphic images of sockeye salmon dying from hot water in the Columbia River Gorge. Clean Water Act permits would require the Army Corps to reduce heat pollution and better control oil spills from the dams.  

To address heat pollution, the permits give Washington and Oregon authority to require the Army Corps to study and, where feasible, implement summertime drawdowns of John Day and other reservoirs to decrease river temperatures that are killing salmon and steelhead.   

“The Columbia’s iconic salmon rely on cool, clean water. It’s past time for the Army Corps to reduce illegal pollution from dams,” said Lauren Goldberg, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper.  


Columbia Riverkeeper is represented in its suit against the Army Corps by Senior Attorney Miles Johnson and the firm Kampmeier and Knutsen. Columbia Riverkeeper is a nonprofit organization with over 16,000 members and supporters that works to protect the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean.