Court Orders Army Corp to Alter Snake River Dams

February 18, 2001

Michael Johnsen

The United States District Court in Portland ruled Friday (Feb. 16, 2001) that the United States Army Corp of Engineers' operation of four dams along the Snake River violates the Clean Water Act . In a ruling that could affect the National Marine Fishery Service's management for saving the Columbia Basin salmon from extinction, the decision could cost the agency millions of dollars to modify the dams and protect endangered salmon in eastern Washington State.

The federal court supports environmental groups who say the dams raise water temperatures and add levels of nitrogen that violate water-quality standards. The ruling orders the corps to find ways, within 60 days, to drop the water temperatures behind the dams to protect the river's water quality and, subsequently, the endangered salmon and steelhead trout's habitat.

The suit was brought by several environmental organizations and the Nez Perce tribe, as well as the State of Oregon. Dutch Meier, a corps spokesman in Walla Walla, Washington, said the corps would study the problem and decide what action to take