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NW Fishletter #390, February 4, 2019
 Group Seeks Expedited Hearing On Willamette Spill And Drawdowns
A U.S. District Court in Oregon agreed Jan. 24 to lift a stay on court-imposed deadlines in Northwest Environmental Defense Center et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers et al., where environmental groups have asked for operational changes at the Willamette Project to benefit fish.
The Defense Center, WildEarth Guardians and the Native Fish Society asked for a preliminary injunction from the court to impose drawdowns, spills and other operational changes at the Willamette Project this year.
The stay was initially granted because U.S. Department of Justice attorneys and other federal agencies involved in the case were on furlough during the partial government shutdown. It was lifted the day before the shutdown ended on Jan. 25.
Magistrate Judge Jolie Russo agreed with the plaintiffs that the U.S. Department of Justice needs to file its reply to the groups' claims soon, and required a response to their motion for a preliminary injunction by Feb. 25. "Should the Court deem the preliminary injunction motion appropriate for disposition with oral argument upon review of the briefings, it will be scheduled accordingly," the court's order stated.
The plaintiffs had sought a response from federal agencies by Feb. 8 so that the matter could be decided, and the Corps could implement changes by spring.
The motion for a preliminary injunction asks the court to change operation of dams in the upper Willamette basin to improve passage for Endangered Species Act-listed salmon and steelhead past the dams this fall, and reduce temperatures below the dams using drawdowns and spill operations this spring and summer.
The federal defendants had objected to the effort to lift the stay. "The lapse in appropriations largely prevents DOJ and affected federal agency staff (including staff at NMFS [National Marine Fisheries Service] and the Department of the Interior) from working on this case, even voluntarily," the reply stated.
In case the court opted to lift the stay--which it did, the federal agencies asked for 30 days after the order to respond--which it received. -K.C. Mehaffey
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