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NW Fishletter #392, April 1, 2019

[14] Chelan PUD, Columbia Riverkeeper Settle Over Oil Leaks

Chelan County PUD has agreed to apply for pollution discharge permits at its two hydroelectric projects on the Columbia River, resolving the threat of a lawsuit by Columbia Riverkeeper.

It's the first time a PUD has agreed to obtain a pollution discharge permit for a dam operated on the Columbia, and to monitor and reduce harmful lubricants, which Columbia Riverkeeper says is required by the Clean Water Act.

Under the agreement, the PUD will apply for a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for Rocky Reach and Rock Island hydroelectric dams.

The PUD said in a news release that it will also spend $105,000 to improve water quality in areas around both dams. It will also evaluate whether it can expand the use of environmentally friendly lubricants over the next year, and work to further develop a program to better track oil and other lubricants as they enter and leave the project.

"We have been actively seeking to reduce oil releases from our hydro projects for many years," General Manager Steve Wright said in a press release. "We view this settlement as helping us move toward a goal we embrace."

Columbia Riverkeeper notified the three Mid-C PUDs--Chelan, Douglas and Grant--in September of its intent to sue over oil and lubricant leaks and spills.

"The settlement sends a powerful message: PUDs have the same responsibility as private companies and the federal dam operators to reduce toxic pollution and prevent dangerous oil spills," Riverkeeper's executive director Brett VandenHeuvel said in a separate news release.

In December, the group filed a lawsuit against Douglas County PUD, which says in its reply to the U.S. District Court complaint that the pollution discharge permit is unnecessary because it already has a water quality certification issued by the Washington Department of Ecology.

Columbia Riverkeeper also settled lawsuits with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which agreed to seek NPDES permits for oil leaks and pursue the use of less harmful oils at nine federal dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers.

In preparing those permits, the Environmental Protection Agency triggered the need for water quality certifications from the Washington State Department of Ecology earlier this year, but the federal agency later withdrew its request and indicated it was working on a new draft. -K.C. Mehaffey

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NW Fishletter is produced by NewsData LLC.
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: K.C. Mehaffey
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