Legal update: Going to court for salmon

Salmon are dying because the Columbia River is too hot. It’s getting worse year after year as our climate warms. We took the Trump administration to court to demand an action plan to deal with the hot water crisis. 

Legal update: Going to court for salmon

Salmon leaping over Lyle Falls, photo by Peter Marbach
Salmon leaping over Lyle Falls, photo by Peter Marbach

Salmon are dying because the Columbia River is too hot. It’s getting worse year after year as our climate warms. We took the Trump administration to court to demand an action plan to deal with the hot water crisis. 

Columbia Riverkeeper and allies are fighting for imperiled salmon and steelhead before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals during oral arguments in Seattle on August 26, at 9:00 a.m. 

If we win this precedent-setting case, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must create a plan to address hot water and protect salmon on the Columbia and Snake rivers. We believe this plan must consider breaching the four Lower Snake River dams. In 2018, a federal district court ruled that EPA violated the Clean Water Act by failing to produce a plan.  Riverkeeper is represented by Advocates for the West. 
 
Our lawsuit was sparked by record-high water temperatures in recent summers, including an incident in 2015 when 250,000 adult sockeye salmon perished due to hot water. Hot water caused by large, shallow reservoirs and intensifying climate change poses an increasingly serious threat to the Columbia and Snake rivers’ already imperiled salmon and steelhead.

I’ll keep you posted on the outcome of this important case. Your membership is powering Riverkeeper’s legal advocacy. Thank you!

Happy Hour for Salmon 
Sunday, August 25, at 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Optimism Brewing Company 1158 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 

Ninth Circuit Appeals Court Reviews Columbia and Snake River Temperature Pollution Debate:

Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead still need protection from dangerously warm river temperatures

WHO: The U.S. EPA is appealing a lower court order requiring additional protections for Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead in a case brought by a coalition of fishing and environmental groups.

WHAT: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments about whether the EPA is doing enough to protect Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead from dangerously warm water. In 2018, a federal district court ruled that EPA violated the Clean Water Act by failing to produce a plan to address water temperature pollution in the Columbia and Snake.

WHY: The lawsuit was sparked by record-high water temperatures in recent summers, including an incident in 2015 when 250,000 adult sockeye salmon died because the Columbia and Snake rivers became too warm. Warm water, caused by large, shallow reservoirs and intensifying climate change, poses and increasingly serious threat to Columbia and Snake rivers’ already imperiled salmon and steelhead.

WHEN: Monday, August 26, 2019, 9:30 a.m.

WHERE: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit William K. Nakamura U.S. Courthouse 1010 Fifth Avenue, 7th Floor Courtroom 2, Seattle WA 98104.

HOW: Live stream here. // Recorded audio and video here.

MORE INFO:  Columbia Riverkeeper (columbiariverkeeper.org), Snake River Waterkeeper (snakeriverwaterkeeper.org), Idaho Rivers United (idahorivers.org), Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (pcffa.org), and the Institute for Fisheries Resources (ifrfish.org) are represented by the law firm Advocates for the West (advocateswest.org). Advocates for the West litigates to protect western public lands, waters, and wildlife.  

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Resources:

BACKGROUND: The Clean Water Act bans Columbia River temperatures over 68 degrees Fahrenheit. When water temperatures reach the 70s, salmon die. In 2003, EPA studied the causes of hot water in the Columbia and Snake rivers and began developing a legally enforceable plan to fix the problem. But dam operators objected and the plan was shelved. Why? EPA found that dams are the main cause of temperature problems.

WHAT IS THE LAW? The Clean Water Act prohibits temperature in the Columbia River from exceeding 68 degrees. The Endangered Species Act is designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction. But the government agencies in charge of the Columbia and Snake river dams aren’t obeying the law. Riverkeepr’s lawsuit alleges that EPA is legally obligated to write a plan to bring the rivers’ temperature back in line with the needs of salmon—and the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

Columbia Riverkeeper is fighting to protect salmon from hot water and climate change.