Stop Oil Spills

Columbia Riverkeeper uses the Clean Water Act to keep toxic oil pollution from large hydroelectric dams out of the river.

The massive hydroelectric dams blocking the Columbia and Snake Rivers are like large factories submerged in the water. These factories are old. They leak and discharge toxic oil, and that oil goes into our rivers. 

For nearly a decade, Riverkeeper has used the Clean Water Act to reduce the dams’ oil pollution. We’ve taken the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and powerful electric companies to court. We’ve forced the federal government to start tracking the oil that leaks into the river and begin switching to non-toxic lubricants. The New York Times called our early victories “historic,” and the Wall Street Journal called them “groundbreaking.”

More recently, we’ve helped strengthen and defend Clean Water Act permits that will require the Army Corps to do a better job keeping toxic oil out of the river.       

There’s more work ahead! Despite causing harmful (and illegal) pollution, certain dams on the Columbia still don’t have Clean Water Act permits to limit oil discharges. Riverkeeper just sued to force the Army Corps to finally get Clean Water Act permits for four dams on the lower Columbia.

Here’s what people are saying about Columbia Riverkeeper’s work to stop oil pollution from dams:

“We rely on toxic-free fish to fuel business in communities along the Columbia and Snake rivers. Columbia Riverkeeper’s work forcing the Corps to fess up to oil pollution from the dams and do something about it is critical to keeping Northwest rivers clean,” said Bob Rees, Columbia River fishing guide and Executive Director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders.

“Some of the greatest kiteboarding in the world is downstream of dams like Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day. Columbia Riverkeeper’s willingness to take the Army Corps to task for ignoring clean water laws helps protect a river that belongs to the public.” -Jonathan Graca, avid kiteboarder based in Hood River, Oregon.

Columbia Riverkeeper’s work “has implications for dams operating without pollution permits across the country. Like any industrial facility, dams are prohibited from discharging pollution until they obtain pollution permits,” said Melissa Powers, environmental law professor at Lewis and Clark Law School and expert on the federal Clean Water Act.