CWA Protects Salmon
By Miles Johnson, Senior Attorney
Columbia Riverkeeper’s groundbreaking use of the Clean Water Act to protect Columbia and Snake river salmon is the focus of a recent article in the Environmental Law Reporter byMichael Benjamin Smith and Professor Michael Blumm of Lewis and Clark Law School.
The article details how Columbia Riverkeeper is using the Clean Water Act to do something unprecedented: hold the Columbia and Snake river dams legally accountable for their heat pollution that is killing endangered salmon.
Columbia and Lower Snake river dams create stagnant reservoirs that soak up the sun’s warmth, making the river too hot for salmon in the summer. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (also called the “Corps,” the federal agency that owns and runs the dams) has long ignored the problem. As the article explains, Columbia Riverkeeper is working to close this legal loophole by:
- Requiring the Corps to apply for Clean Water Act discharge permits;
- Requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish a plan (called a TMDL) to reduce the dams’ heat pollution; and
- Convincing the Washington Dept. of Ecology to make compliance with EPA’s temperature plan a condition of the Corps’ Clean Water Act discharge permits.
Columbia Riverkeeper will keep pushing to hold the dams and federal agencies accountable for heat pollution. Salmon, and the species and cultures they support, are simply too important to the Pacific Northwest.
Columbia Riverkeeper fights to protect salmon from dams, hot water, toxic pollution, and climate change.