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.
- Columbia Riverkeeper sues Army Corps over unpermitted water pollution, December 8, 2021
- Breaking News: Oil Spill at The Dalles Dam, December 3, 2020
- Army Corps Reports Large Oil Spill Into Columbia River From Bonneville Dam, July 15, 2020
- Columbia Riverkeeper, Army Corps Settle Lawsuit Over Oil Pollution from Chief Joseph Dam, November 25, 2019
- Rocky Reach Dam Spills Over 300 Gallons of Oil into Columbia River, October 21, 2019
- Army Corps Reports Aging Hydroelectric Dam May Have Spilled 300 Gallons of Industrial Oil into Snake River, August 8, 2019
- Columbia Riverkeeper and Chelan County Public Utility District Settle Legal Dispute to End Unlawful Oil Pollution at Two Dams on Columbia River, March 20, 2019
- Columbia Riverkeeper Files Lawsuit to End Oil Pollution from Wells Dam, December 11, 2018
- Columbia Riverkeeper Provides Notice of Lawsuit Over Oil Pollution from Five Public Utility District-Dams on Columbia River, September 19, 2018
- Press release: Army Corps Reports Columbia River Dam May Have Spilled 474 Gallons of Oil, March 29, 2018
- Information on Riverkeeper’s lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation related to oil spills at Grand Coulee Dam.
- Information on Riverkeeper’s lawsuit against the Army Corps related to oil spills at eight Columbia and Snake river dams.
- Press release: Columbia Riverkeeper and Army Corps Reach Settlement to End Uncontrolled Oil Pollution Seeping from Columbia and Snake River Dams.
- Proposed order with settlement agreement.
- “AP NewsBreak: Army Corps agrees to monitor oil pollution from dams in historic settlement,” AP News, Aug. 4, 2014.
- “Oil-Leaking Dams Generate Concern,” The Oregonian, May 4, 2003.
- Summary of Columbia Riverkeeper Dams Settlement
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