Exciting news for salmon!

21st of May 2020

EPA Finally Releases Plan to Protect Wild Salmon in Columbia and Snake Rivers

In response to our recent Ninth Circuit Court win, this week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally released its much-anticipated plan (called a Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL) to control heat pollution in the Columbia and Snake rivers. EPA’s plan is further evidence that removing the four Lower Snake River dams is necessary to restore imperiled Pacific Northwest salmon and Puget Sound resident orcas.

The plan addresses the sources of heat pollution and sets heat-reduction targets for each source. Key takeaways from the plan are:

  1. Dams are the main cause of temperature problems, making the river too hot for salmon to migrate successfully.
  2. The Army Corps needs to lower temperatures in the Snake River one or two degrees Celcius throughout the summer and fall in order for salmon to survive and migrate successfully.
  3. To meet these temperature-reduction targets, we need bold actions like drawing down Lower Snake River reservoirs or removing these dams.

Now that the TMDL has been released, we will be closely monitoring EPA’s actions to ensure the agency follows through on its commitment to reducing water temperature pollution.

“After decades of inaction, EPA finally brought science to bear on the problem,” said Staff Attorney Bryan Hurlbutt. “And the science is clear: mainstem dams are the culprit. Dams are to blame when river temperatures reach levels that are lethal to salmon.” 

Thanks to our clients in this critical case: Columbia Riverkeeper, Idaho Rivers United, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Snake River Waterkeeper.

New Action to Protect Salmon Habitat in Idaho’s South Fork Clearwater River

On Tuesday, Advocates for the West filed the opening brief in our Clean Water Act enforcement case for Idaho Conservation League against suction dredge miner Shannon Poe. 

Poe uses a suction dredge to mine for gold from the riverbed of the South Fork Clearwater River. When he operates his dredge, Poe discharges turbid wastewater to the river, but he refuses to apply for a Clean Water Act permit. 

Our filing asks the Court to hold Mr. Poe liable for 42 Clean Water Act violations–one for each day he mined without a permit in 2014, 2015, and 2018.

The South Fork Clearwater River is an eligible Wild and Scenic River, and supports many native aquatic species, including steelhead, Chinook salmon, bull trout, lamprey, cutthroat trout, and others. Due to logging, mining, and other human activities, the South Fork is impaired along its entire length because it fails to meet Clean Water Act standards for sediment pollution.

Suction dredge miners excavate deep dredge holes, exposing and releasing sediments that were locked in place deep in the riverbed, further degrading water quality in the South Fork.

Read the Opening Brief