Environmental Groups Want More Water Spilled Over NW Dams, GOP Lawmakers Not Happy

Last week, a host of conservation groups, including the state of Oregon, asked a federal court to order more spill from dams along the lower Snake and Columbia rivers this spring. The groups said the additional water will help aid the migration of salmon and steelhead.

Earthjustice, on behalf of a coalition of a variety of groups, asked a federal court in Portland, OR, for more water to be released to help the fish navigate a series of dams in the river basins. Increasing the amount of water, the suit said, helps flush young fish along their river migration to reach the ocean where they mature.

But increasing spill also means that water is not available later to generate power.

The groups are also seeking lowered reservoir levels.

“Right now we’re back in court asking for another stop-gap measure to slow the trend toward extinction of these fish,” Earthjustice attorney Todd True said.

The request for a preliminary injunction lists the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation as defendants.​

In response to last week’s court action, eastern Washington’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers and central Washington’s Dan Newhouse issued a statement:

“It was not long ago that parts of Oregon suffered regular devastation from flooding – flooding that has since been significantly mitigated by dams. This filing is further proof that some groups will stop at nothing to breach all dams on the Columbia and Lower Snake Rivers, regardless of the tremendous hydropower, flood control, and navigation benefits they provide. We also have to question why Oregon Governor Kate Brown seems eager to abandon the four-state agreement Oregon supported just last year.  

“At the time of the agreement, the four states had determined a need to work together towards our common goal of rebuilding Columbia River salmon and steelhead stocks ‘in a collaborative, public process to be defined with involvement from the region’s tribes, federal agencies, and stakeholders.’ Tossing what was billed as a collaborative process aside to pursue yet another obstructive lawsuit means abandoning the hard work necessary to recover salmon. 

“It’s clear by these actions that Oregon’s leadership is refusing to consider the negative ramifications this filing will have on energy reliability and affordability – as well as safety – for the people in its own state and in Washington, Idaho, and Montana.”

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