Salmon and Steelhead Die-Offs in Columbia and Snake Rivers
Columbia Riverkeeper v. Scott Pruitt, Administrator of EPA
December 20, 2019
March 30, 2020 – The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the EPA’s petition to rehear this case. Not a single judge showed interest in rehearing the case.
Now, unless it seeks US Supreme Court review, EPA will finally have to prepare a plan to address the Columbia River Basin’s warm water and the lethal effects it has on wild salmon and steelhead populations.
December 20, 2019 – The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in our favor and ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect Columbia basin salmon and steelhead from dangerously warm river temperatures. In its conclusion, the Court opinion states:
“Because Washington and Oregon have conclusively refused to develop and issue a temperature TMDL for the Columbia and Snake Rivers, the EPA is obligated to act under § 1313(d)(2). This constructive submission of no TMDL triggers the EPA’s duty to develop and issue its own TMDL within 30 days, and it has failed to do so. The time has come—the EPA must do so now.”
December 13, 2017 – Advocates for the West filed our reply brief, refuting EPA’s assertions that the agency and the states should be given even more time work on the temperature TMDL. EPA and the states have already wasted 19 years and allowed water temperature problems to get worse, so we urge the court to order EPA to issue the TMDL within a year.
August 15, 2016 – In response to rising water temperatures and inaction by federal agencies, Advocates for the West filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asking the EPA to take action and prevent massive, heat-driven fish kills. In 2015 scientists recorded the warmest year on record, and hot water killed 250,000 adult sockeye salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers.
Washington, Oregon, and Idaho list the Columbia and Snake rivers as too hot to protect salmon. In 2000, at the request of Washington and Oregon, EPA agreed to develop a legally enforceable plan—called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) or pollution budget—to address the problem. In 2003, EPA conducted a study to understand the causes of hot water in the Columbia and Snake rivers and began developing the pollution budget. But dam operators objected because the agency found that dams are the main cause of temperature problems; in response, the EPA halted the plan.