Grand Coulee Dam Settlement



Settlement Aims to Slash Toxic Pollution from the Pacific Northwest’s Largest Dam

January 19, 2017 (Portland, Ore.) —Today Columbia Riverkeeper reached a settlement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation designed to end uncontrolled toxic oil pollution from Grand Coulee Dam, finally bringing one of the nation’s biggest dams into compliance with the Clean Water Act. Grand Coulee has leaked oil into the Columbia for over 70 years—endangering public health and threatening fish and wildlife.

“For the first time in its long history, Grand Coulee Dam must reduce toxic pollution,” stated Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “People rely on the Columbia for clean water and strong salmon runs. Today’s settlement ensures the federal government does its part keep toxic pollution out of the Columbia.”

In 2014, Columbia Riverkeeper settled a similar lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers aimed at oil pollution from eight dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The groundbreaking settlement ended decades of unregulated oil pollution and drew national and international attention, with the New York Times describing the settlement as having “national implications” and the Wall Street Journal describing it as “historic.”

The Grand Coulee Dam settlement requires the Bureau of Reclamation to join its federal partners at the Corps to investigate replacing toxic oils at Grand Coulee with eco-friendly lubricants or switch to using non-lubricated equipment. For the first time in American history, the Corps is testing eco-friendly oils in large hydroelectric dams, as required by Riverkeeper’s 2014 settlement. If the tests are successful, the Corps must switch to eco-friendly oil in eight of America’s largest dams: Bonneville, The Dalles, McNary, Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite. Riverkeeper’s latest settlement builds on the Corps’ investigation and could lead to similar changes at Grand Coulee Dam.

Columbia Riverkeeper is a nonprofit organization working to protect and restore the Columbia River and all life connected to it. Columbia Riverkeeper is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, the world’s fastest growing environmental movement, uniting more than 290 Waterkeeper organizations around the world and focusing citizen action on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC, and Columbia Riverkeeper staff attorneys, Lauren Goldberg and Miles Johnson, represent Riverkeeper in this action.

Legal documents, including the settlement filed with the court today, are available here:

About Columbia Riverkeeper

Columbia Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean. Representing over 12,000 members and supporters, Columbia Riverkeeper works to restore a Columbia River where people can safely eat the fish they catch, and where children can swim without fear of toxic exposure. For more information go to

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