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NW Fishletter #368, April 3, 2017

[8] PGE Loses Bid To Dismiss Suit Over Deschutes River Water Quality

Upholding a state's authority to enforce water-quality standards, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon ruled March 27 against Portland General Electric's request to dismiss a suit brought by the Deschutes River Alliance.

In the case [16-cv-01644], the alliance alleges violations of the Clean Water Act at the utility's Pelton Round Butte hydroelectric complex on the Deschutes River.

PGE operations at the three dams are hurting salmonids and compromising the ecological integrity of the central Oregon river, the group claims.

The court said Section 401 of the CWA means citizens may sue to require a facility not only to obtain certification, but also to enforce compliance with an existing certification.

PGE argued that only FERC authority to enforce Section 401 water-quality requirements once a dam has obtained a license.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Washington Department of Ecology appeared as amici curiae in the proceeding.

At dispute are alleged problems caused by the utility's selective water-withdrawal tower built in 2007 to create flows that attract migrating juvenile salmon and steelhead downstream.

The water-withdrawal system is warming the river, the alliance says, and reducing the river's native cold-water fish populations.

The suit will now proceed on the merits; a court schedule is pending. -Laura Berg

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