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NW Fishletter #339, November 21, 2014

[6] Enviros Challenge CGS's New Waste Discharge Permit

Several environmental groups filed a lawsuit Oct. 30 in Thurston County Superior Court against Washington's Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which issued a water pollution permit Sept. 30 for Energy Northwest's Columbia Generating Station, the state's only nuke plant.

The groups say the five-year permit was approved despite NOAA Fisheries concerns about the intake screen that keeps juvenile fish out of the project's cooling system, which uses 20 million gallons a day from the Columbia River. The groups also claim the evaluation council erred because the permit allows levels of pollution that violate state standards.

"Experts from the National Marine Fisheries Service sounded the alarm about how this facility may be killing and harming endangered salmon," said Marla Nelson, staff attorney for the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, in an Oct. 30 statement. "EFSEC's blatant disregard for this input demands judicial oversight." The Northwest Environmental Defense Center and Columbia Riverkeeper also joined the lawsuit.

The new permit calls for CGS to study whether the screen is adversely affecting juvenile fish listed for protection under the ESA. NOAA Fisheries said the screen may be a problem, especially for young steelhead, but cited no studies to support its statement. It also said juvenile fall Chinook could be affected.

If the study report or other monitoring "indicates significant entrainment or impingement of federally-listed threatened and endangered species," the permit calls for preparation of an engineering analysis, including costs and benefits of replacement with an approved design. If Energy Northwest decides to replace the intake structure, the entrainment study can be suspended. No studies have been done since 1985, when no fish were found to be harmed,

In a fact sheet Energy Northwest released about the permit, it said ENW "has complied with the effluent limits and permit conditions" for the length of the earlier permit issued in 2006, and that the EFSEC had assessed compliance, "based on its review of the facility's information, discharge monitoring reports (DMRs), and on inspections."

On Nov. 13, ENW filed a motion in Thurston County Superior Court to intervene in the lawsuit.

"Although the anti-nuclear energy groups offered no science to support their claims, the petition they filed could have real impacts to ratepayers," said Brent Ridge, ENW VP, corporate services, and chief financial and risk officer, in a Nov. 13 statement. "The motion filed today points out that unnecessary changes to Columbia's water intake structure would cost more than $20 million, mostly from lost power sales, as Columbia would need to shut down to make those changes."

According to the motion, replacement cost of the screen itself is estimated at nearly $2 million, and it would have to be replaced during low water summer months, when the plant generates more than $1 million worth of power every day. -B. R.

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