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NW Fishletter #367, March 6, 2017

[6] EPA Sued Over Temperature Pollution in Columbia and Snake Rivers

Five environmental and fishing groups took legal action Feb. 23 against the U.S. EPA over Clean Water Act violations.

The lawsuit would compel the agency to develop a plan to limit high water temperatures in the Columbia and Snake rivers.

As the climate warms, the need to lower water temperatures has become a particular concern.

The EPA has said lowering water temperatures is critical to climate-change adaptation, but the new administrator, Scott Pruitt, has questioned the need for actions to address climate change.

Warm water in the Columbia and Snake rivers in 2015 killed roughly 250,000 adult sockeye migrating to upstream spawning areas. In response, EPA again acknowledged the problem.

In the early 2000s, the agency established that high temperatures from inflowing tributaries and point sources like factories had a negligible impact on average river temperatures, according to the Feb. 23 complaint filed by the environmental groups.

"EPA then determined what temperature reductions would need to be achieved at each dam in order to comply with water quality standards," the filing stated.

In July 2003, EPA released a draft Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan, which includes restrictions on temperature and pollutants, and allocates responsibilities for achieving reductions. However the agency has yet to issue a final plan.

"This 13-and-a-half-year delay in issuing the final TMDL is not reasonable in light of … the timelines set forth in the Clean Water Act and its implementing regulations, which call for swift action to issue TMDLs within 30 days," the Feb. 23 filing says.

The plaintiffs -- Columbia Riverkeeper, Snake River Waterkeeper, Idaho Rivers United, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association and the Institute for Fisheries Resources -- announced their intent to sue in August. -Laura Berg

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NW Fishletter is produced by Energy NewsData.
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: Laura Berg
Phone: (206) 285-4848 Fax: (206) 281-8035

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