Rural Oregon Communities Are Fighting to Keep Out Big Water Bottling Companies

Water is critical to maintaining the balance of all life on Earth. As humans go, the United Nations estimates that each person needs about 50 to 100 liters a day for drinking and washing. It must be safe, accessible, and affordable. Some corporations claim ownership of fresh water sources to bottle and sell for profit. Others use water as a tool to extract oil and gas from the ground. In this episode of Making Contact, we’ll hear from communities fighting to keep big water bottling companies out of rural Oregon, and to protect water from oil and gas contamination in New Mexico.

Monica Lopez: This week on Making Contact: Water is critical to maintaining the balance of all life on Earth as humans go. The United Nations estimates that each person needs about 50 to 100 liters a day for drinking and washing. It must be safe, accessible and affordable. And then there are large corporations that claim ownership of fresh water sources to bottle and sell for profit.

Craig Jasmer: We were sitting on our property and heard well drilling operations and we wondered what was going on. Who was digging a well? Well, a neighbor informed us that the previous property owner had sold to Crystal Geyser. There was never any public notice published, which was really frustrating.

Monica Lopez: Other companies use water as a tool to extract oil and gas from the ground.

Rebecca Sobel: And until legislators can provide 100 percent assurance that there’s no risk to public health, there’s no risk to the environment, and there’s no risk to freshwater resources in the management of oil and gas waste, or produced water, regulators should move very cautiously, if at all.

Monica Lopez: This is “Wolves at the Well: The Corporate Grab of Public Water” on Making Contact. I’m Monica Lopez.

Monica Lopez: When you reach for that plastic bottle of water do you know where the water inside came from? Well, much of bottled water is sourced from municipal taps. Expensive premium bottled water actually does come from pristine springs located in remote rural areas. Oregon producer Barbara Bernstein explores the impacts that large water bottling facilities have on these rural areas and why residents in targeted communities are fighting back against water bottlers like Nestle and Crystal Geyser.

Barbara Bernstein: For the vast majority of human existence and civilization, water has been perceived as a common resource not to be owned and bought and sold. As we head into a climate crisis, we’ve really got to make sure a water gets defined as a public resource.

Barbara Bernstein: The Pacific Northwest is a water abundant region, with many small towns reeling from the loss of their primary industry: logging. The commercial water bottling industry has been eyeing many of these communities as prime locations to site large water bottling plants. Cascade Locks is a small logging town in the Columbia River Gorge, about 40 miles east of Portland, Oregon, whose lumber mills shut down in 1988.

Aurora Del Val It was pretty devastating to the local economy and I think to the social fabric of the community when the mill closed down.

Barbara Bernstein: Aurora del Val lives in Cascade Locks and was the campaign director for the local water alliance.

Aurora Del Val People here were understandably desperate because this is an economically depressed area and a prime candidate for corporations like Nestlé to come in and say, Hey, we can save your town.

Barbara Bernstein: In 2008, Nestle approached city leaders with an offer to build a water bottling facility that would draw water from a pristine spring just outside town. They were warmly received by the Cascade Locks mayor and city manager and most of the city council. Julia DeGraw was a Northwest organizer for Food and Water Watch, one of several environmental organizations that led the fight to stop Nestle from building their water bottling plant.

Julia DeGraw: Anybody in Cascade Locks who didn’t want to see a multinational corporation with Nestle’s track record of damaging local water resources coming into their town were very scared, frankly, to speak out against their elected leadership and to disagree with their neighbors.

Aurora Del Val The mayor and the city council and the city manager, they were trying to silence us. We’d have members keep going to the city council meetings and also the Port of Cascade Locks meetings and say this is not a done deal.

Barbara Bernstein: As the opponents of Nestle’s water bottling plant became more frustrated and angry, they also began to get more organized.

Aurora Del Val: We ended up demanding that we wanted a true Town Hall meeting, not a Nestle sponsored town hall meeting.

Julia DeGraw: Every other public meeting had been hosted by Nestle and the moderator they hired. So all of a sudden, there is this just boiling point where people showed up and could actually ask their elected officials direct questions about why are we doing this and how is this in our best interests.

Aurora Del Val: One thing that came up in the town hall meeting was why not put it to a vote to the city? But we were advised that doing a countywide measure would spread the news about the danger of having these water extractors come in.

Barbara Bernstein: As word of Nestle’s plans got out to the rest of Hood River County, where Cascade Locks is situated, opposition swelled even though the plant was still favored by many Cascade Locks residents and nearly all its elected officials.

Julia DeGraw: Most of the time, when Nestle wants to open up a water bottling facility the fight never goes beyond the city or county level. The water that Nestlé wanted to bottle was spring water that was used by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, a state agency, for a fish hatchery. What they did not anticipate was that a state agency had to go through a process to make this public water available to a multinational corporation for water bottling purposes. And it gave all the organizations that eventually formed out of the Gorge Coalition an opportunity to make this a state wide issue.

Julia DeGraw: We’re talking about water, which is a common public resource owned by every Oregonian and Nestlé, which trucks water up to five hundred miles away from their water bottling sites. So the impact wasn’t going to stick just in Cascade Locks.

Barbara Bernstein: In 2015, local activists formed the local water alliance to launch a ballot measure to make commercial water bottling plants and shipping water out of the county for commercial uses illegal in Hood River County. While the measure did not have majority support in the city of Cascade Locks, it found broad support across the rest of the county.

Aurora Del Val: Because Hood River County produces a lot of food for the region, for the nation, We really did a lot of outreach with farmers on both sides of the river. We got over a 100 local businesses and over 60 farms and orchards to sign on and support us.

Barbara Bernstein: In May 2016, the ballot initiative passed with 69 percent of the vote. However, in the city of Cascade Locks, the initiative was defeated by a narrow margin. Ballot initiative proponents steeled themselves for the city to appeal the measure, while hoping that Oregon governor, Kate Brown, would step in and stop the water rights exchange that would allow Nestle to use the spring water.

Julia DeGraw: It was such a high to pass it, and then it was so disappointing to have just a complete lack of action on the governor’s part. It’s just frustrating to know that we had to keep the fight going where we generated a bunch of phone calls and emails to the governor. So she got a lot of contacts from citizens saying like, please don’t do this, right smack dab in the middle of Governor Brown’s reelection campaign. I think she recognized that in a contentious election cycle, she does not want to be the governor who is standing by while Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is making water available to Nestle for water bottling. So Governor Brown publicly came out and said it is not in the best interest of our state to allow ODFW to do a water rights exchange and to please withdraw their application.

Aurora Del Val: Finding that out, I felt like I had five hundred pounds lift from my shoulders, because the city was getting geared up for a battle to appeal.

Barbara Bernstein: About a year after Cascade Locks drove Nestle out of the gorge, a similar water battle erupted 100 miles north in the tiny community of Randle, Washington.

Craig Jasmer: We were sitting on our property and heard, well, drilling operations and we wondered what was going on. Who was digging a well?

Barbara Bernstein: Craig Jasmer is a Randle resident and a founding member of the Lewis County Water Alliance.

Craig Jasmer: A neighbor informed us that the previous property owner had sold to Crystal Geyser. There was never any public notice published, which was really frustrating.

Alex Brown: They paid close to seven hundred thousand for the property when it was valued at something in the two hundred thousands.

Barbara Bernstein: Alex Brown was a local reporter with the Chronicle covering Lewis county during the Crystal Geyser Incident.

Alex Brown: That certainly raised a few eyebrows given the opposition that these proposals have faced in so many small communities. It really did seem like they were trying to fly under the radar as much as they possibly could.

Craig Jasmer: Initially, we were shocked as to why Crystal Geyser would have purchased the property out here, because we knew that the county zoning wouldn’t allow such an industry out there. And then as we started our investigation, what we found was that the zoning had recently been changed to allow for food and beverage manufacturing of this size in our zone

Alex Brown: They were interested in allowing craft breweries and wineries who wanted to have some sort of onsite tasting. But ultimately, that change in the zoning ended up opening up a loophole for Crystal. Geyser to come in. Randle’s a quiet rural area, folks, when they started hearing about this proposal, were going “OK. I retired out here in the countryside and now we’re going to have a plant the size of a Wal-Mart. We’re gonna have semi truck traffic going up and down the road where my grandkids ride their bikes”. People started to raise concerns about well water and the aquifer being depleted/ Very quickly it became a fairly organized movement.

Craig Jasmer: Initially, we gathered a small group of our neighbors and decided that we needed to stop it, but we wouldn’t be able to stop it just ourselves. So we’ve organized a town hall meeting in Randle and invited the county commissioner, the county manager who both showed up.

Alex Brown: By my count, there are at least 300 people there, including many who couldn’t even get into the building, who were just listening on speakers outside.

Craig Jasmer: We had some spokespersons from the Cowlitz Indian tribe. We got the facts that we had discovered from public records requests when the community heard these facts. They were outraged. They all came together and knew that it was going to take all of them to stop it.

Alex Brown: Part of the reason the response in Randle was so organized and effective was that they did communicate with people from Cascade Locks and some of these other communities who have gone to war with some of these bottling companies and fought successfully or not against a lot of these proposals.

Craig Jasmer: We started communicating with our local government, with the state government, making waves wherever we could.

Alex Brown: People were showing up in force to county commission meetings for months where you’d have people driving two hours across the county to show up and speak.

Craig Jasmer: We’d have 30 people who gave a three minute talk on Crystal Geyser and basically took over every meeting. They knew that we were a force to be reckoned with and that they had to do something, otherwise they were going to continue to have a lot of interruptions in their meetings and not get anything done.

Alex Brown: Pretty much at all levels of county government people were telling me they had never seen this level of engagement on an issue, let alone from a small rural community an hour away from the county seat.

Craig Jasmer: Basically, what we were talking about doing was just putting a halt on any permit applications for food and beverage manufacturing until they studied that zoning criteria and decided whether or not they wanted to keep it the way it was, if Crystal Geyser had gone ahead and submitted an application with the county prior to that moratorium being in effect, they would have been grandfathered in and they would have a bottling plant there today.

Barbara Bernstein: The people in Randle decided that they needed to act not only on a county level, but also on the state level.

Craig Jasmer: This wasn’t the first time that these bottling companies have tried to come into Washington or into Oregon. And it’s always these small towns in the rural areas that are targeted. They’re the ones who have the least amount of defense against these big corporations. We felt like it was the neighborly thing to do to try to educate the state on what we had learned at the county level and try to protect all of our neighbors throughout the state.

Barbara Bernstein: In the middle of this contentious battle Crystal Geyser’s COO sent an email to Chronicle reporter Alex Brown requesting that he write an article about how other communities have benefited from having a Crystal Geyser bottling facility sited in their community. Brown responded that since they refused to go on the record with him, he would not print their PR. To his surprise he received back a revealing email from the CEO.

Alex Brown: My impression is that he intended to forward that e-mail to the company president, but accidentally replied to me, essentially saying The Chronicle’s not gonna play ball and reprint our PR. Everyone’s against us. This project is probably dead. But here’s a last ditch plan we can try to use. To sue the local subdivision preemptively and just use very strong arm tactics to try to get the project through when they clearly lost in the court of public opinion at that point. They were somewhat flabbergasted that we intended to print that information. So very quickly had a multi-billion dollar law firm threaten to sue us and put a restraining order on us if we attempted to publish it. We knew that that was all a bluff and so we ran it in the next day’s newspaper. The opposition, got even louder and more unified, and it pretty much directly led to county commissioners revising and clarifying the code to disallow large scale water bottling for commercial purposes, which in effect killed the project and marked a successful end to this local movement.

Barbara Bernstein: The Chronicle story inspired a bill introduced in the Washington State Senate that would ban groundwater extraction for commercial bottling. Craig Jasmer with the Lewis County Water Alliance.

Craig Jasmer: The idea of the bill was that you’re not able to apply for a permit for a water right in the state of Washington if the purpose is to take the water out of the ground and bottle it and ship it out of the state.

Barbara Bernstein: The bill did pass the state Senate, but in the House, it did not make it out of committee and so was killed, at least for now.

Craig Jasmer: It was disheartening to see the corporate lobbyists come in and explain why they should vote against it. Really no reason other than for corporate profits.

Aurora Del Val: We need to have a much more widespread policy to protect public water because it’s battle fatigue for small town people to have to do this over and over again.

Barbara Bernstein: Aurora del Val Cascade Locks Local Water Alliance.

Aurora Del Val: And I hope that Washington will be the first state in the nation to make commercial water bottling illegal for making contact.

Barbara Bernstein: For Making Contact, This is Barbara Bernstein.

Soure: https://truthout.org/audio/rural-oregon-communities-are-fighting-to-keep-out-big-water-bottling-companies/

A Dam Comes Down – and Tribes, Cities, Salmon and Orcas Could All Benefit

The conclusion to decades of work to remove a dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River east of Bellingham, Washington began with a bang yesterday as crews breached the dam with a carefully planned detonation. This explosive denouement is also a beginning.

Over the next couple of weeks, crews will fully remove the 125-foot-wide, 25-foot-tall dam, allowing the Middle Fork Nooksack to run free for the first time in 60 years. With the dam’s removal, 16 miles of river and tributary habitat will open up to help boost populations of three threatened Puget Sound fish species: Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout.

“This project has always ranked at the top of the list for fish recovery projects in this area because of the sheer number of miles of river habitat that are available upstream in a fairly remote and pristine area,” says Renee LaCroix, assistant public works director for the city of Bellingham, which owns the dam. “There’s no other single project in this area that can match this.”

Two local tribes, the Nooksack and Lummi Nation, have been behind the effort to help restore fish passage and the river’s ecological integrity.

“Our natural resources are our cultural resources,” says Trevor Delgado, the Nooksack tribal historic preservation officer. “With this removal we get a little piece of our home back — a place where our people have visited for hundreds of generations.”

LaCroix says the project has no downsides for the city, and it’s expected to increase the resilience of the municipal water supply, remove a safety hazard for kayakers, help fish recovery and restore culturally significant resources for the tribes.

Proponents also hope to see indirect benefits for endangered Southern Resident killer whales. This population of orcas ranges across Pacific Northwest coastal waters and relies on dwindling numbers of Chinook as a main food source. Fewer than 80 of the whales remain, and Chinook populations have fallen so low that the orcas have started altering their traditional migration patterns as they search for fish to eat.

But even with the dam removal’s many benefits and municipal and tribal support, the path to this moment hasn’t been easy.

The History

The Middle Fork Nooksack drains glacier-fed headwater streams that run off the icy summit of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker. The Middle Fork joins the North Fork and then the mainstem of the Nooksack River, which travels to Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound. The entire Nooksack watershed stretches 830 square miles across Washington and into British Columbia.

map of diversion dam and region
Image: American Rivers

For generations the river and its surrounding habitat have physically and spiritually nourished Indigenous peoples — including the Nooksack Indian Tribe and the Lummi Nation.

But all that changed when the dam was built in in 1961 to divert water to the city of Bellingham to supplement its main water supply in Lake Whatcom — the drinking water for the now-85,000 residents in the city and county. As soon as it went up, the dam obstructed fish passage, altered the river’s flow, and disrupted the ability of tribal members to use a culturally significant area.

For the past four decades, Delgado says, the Nooksack have pushed for dam removal. They got close in the early 2000s, when the Nooksack and Lummi Nation entered into an official agreement with the city and state to work on a solution that would allow fish passage, including the possible installation of fish ladders. But despite years of work, a suitable fix wasn’t found, and the effort had completely stalled by 2016.

The following year the nonprofit American Rivers, which works on watershed restoration and has extensive experience in dam-removal efforts, stepped in with financial backing from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. American Rivers’ April McEwan assumed a project management role and brought parties back to the table and soon into agreement on a plan to remove the dam and reengineer the city’s water intake from the river.

“What we know about dam removal is that if you can remove the infrastructure and restore the channel to natural conditions, that’s always the best way to get fish passage,” says McEwan.

The final cost of the project came in at around $20 million — way more than the city could afford on its own. About half of the cost eventually came from the state and the city is collaborating with federal agencies on the distribution of another $2 million in Pacific Salmon Treaty funds. But before applying for that money, the city had to complete costly initial design and permitting work. Private foundations — largely the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, along with Resources Legacy Fund — picked up 70% of those initial costs.

LaCroix says help from American Rivers and the foundations was hugely important in getting the project “shovel ready” so it could apply for the construction funds it needed.

Removing the dam infrastructure was just part of the cost, though. Reworking the city’s water intake also required some tricky engineering.

A Plan Comes Together

The Middle Fork dam is not a pool dam built for water storage. Much of the time, water flows over the top until dam operators drop a floodgate to divert water to new locations. That water travels about 14 miles through tunnel and pipeline to Mirror Lake, then Anderson Creek, and to Lake Whatcom before finally being delivered to residents’ taps.

Before removing the dam, engineers had to move the water intake 700 feet upstream and situate it at an elevation that still enabled city water withdrawals throughout the year, regardless of flow conditions.

They also needed to make sure that the rushing water didn’t sweep up fish and accidentally send them through the water-supply system.

“The solution required a fairly complex design in the intake structure, including a fish exit pipe out of that structure to put fish back into the river in a way that meets current environmental permit standards,” explains LaCroix.

project schematic
Project layout for the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam and rebuilding of water intake. Credit: City of Bellingham

Despite the cost and the work, she says, being able to continue to meet their municipal water obligations while opening up habitat for threatened species has been a win-win.

“I think there’s a lot of benefits to having a dam removal versus fish passage — the main one being that you get a free-flowing river that can be a dynamic ecosystem and change over time,” she says. “A static fish ladder just can’t provide that same level of ecosystem benefit.”

Restoration Success

Despite local authorities’ championing dam removal on the Middle Fork, the project has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed in the Pacific Northwest by heated discussions about a much larger potential project — removing four federal hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River, a major tributary of the Columbia River.

Proponents of dam removal there see it as the best chance for recovering threatened salmon populations, including Chinook, which could help starving Southern Resident killer whales. Those dams also provide irrigation water, barge navigation and hydropower, so there’s been more pushback against removal efforts.

Previous dam removals around the country, however, have proved successful at aiding fish recovery and river restoration.

Most notably the 1999 demolition of Edwards Dam on Maine’s Kennebec River restored the annual run of alewives, a type of herring essential to the food web. The fish run has gone from zero to 5 million in the two decades since dam removal. Blueback herring, striped bass, sturgeon and shad have also extended their reach. And the resurgence has brought back osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife, too.

The overwhelming success of river restoration on the Kennebec helped to spur a nationwide dam removal movement that’s now seen 1,200 dams come down since 1999. Last year a record 90 dams were removed in 26 states, including 20 dams in California’s Cleveland National Forest.

The results have been seen in the Pacific Northwest, as well, which boasts the largest dam removal thus far in the country. In 2011 and 2014, the demolition of two dams on Elwha River, which runs through Washington’s Olympic National Park, opened up 70 miles of habitat that had been blocked for a century. Scientists have started seeing all five species of salmon native to the river coming back, particularly Chinook and coho. Bull trout, they’ve observed, have increased in size since the dams were removal.

Benefits on the Middle Fork Nooksack

McEwan hopes to see a similar outcome on the Middle Fork.

Like the Elwha the Middle Fork Nooksack is a relatively pristine river with little development, and dam removal is expected to provide a big boost to fish. The additional miles of spawning habitat are important, but so is the temperature of that water.

The dam removal will open access to cold upstream waters, which are ideal for salmon and getting harder to come by as climate change warms waters and reduces mountain runoff.

“This is really great for the climate change resiliency for these species,” says McEwan.

Steelhead will get back 45% of their historic habitat in the river, and scientists expect Chinook populations to increase in abundance by 31%.

That could help Southern Resident killer whales.

“When you get to the ocean, it’s a little bit of a black box in terms of what you can model and say definitively is going to help, but more fish is better for orcas,” McEwan says.

Upstream habitat will see benefits, too.

Oceangoing fish like salmon enrich their bodies with carbon and nitrogen while at sea. When they return to their natal rivers to spawn and die, the marine-derived nutrients they carry back upriver become important food and fertilizer for both riverine and terrestrial ecosystems — aiding everything from trees to birds to bears.

“Once the fish start making their way back, it will start changing the whole ecological system,” says Delgado.

But any ecological benefit from salmon restoration, either in the ocean or the upper watershed, won’t be immediate.

“The population of salmon on the Middle Fork is so low that we expect it’s going to take quite a while to rebound,” she says. “But the big picture is that what’s good for salmon is good for the region — our history and our destiny are intricately intertwined.”

After decades of work, that process of restoration has finally begun.

Source: https://therevelator.org/nooksack-dam-removal/?fbclid=IwAR1RPkoBgyOM1aEcBE3e9zYYxv9h26xaiDtf4ifH9J73ns00CSujZmwLmwY

EPA report: Dams play large role in raising water temperatures

Study issued Tuesday looks at causes of warming water on Snake and Columbia rivers

Updated

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a report Tuesday detailing summertime water temperature problems on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers and assigning significant responsibility to federal dams.

The report said dams on both rivers play a role in raising water temperatures above 68 degrees — the state water quality standards of Washington and Oregon, and the point at which the water becomes harmful to salmon and steelhead. The causes of the increasing water temperatures are known as Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL.

But federal authors also noted the Snake River often exceeds temperature standards before it enters Washington from Idaho, as does the Columbia River when it enters the state from Canada.

The report, that is being released for public comment, is likely to play a role in the long-simmering debate over the role dams play in the decline of threatened and endangered Snake River salmon and steelhead. In addition to being a source of mortality to juvenile fish during their migration to the Pacific Ocean, the dams can also harm returning adults. By slowing the flow and increasing the surface area exposed to the sun, the dams cause the Snake River to increase as much as 5.7 degrees, according to the report.

Temperatures higher than 68 degrees can cause adult fish to stall during their return from the ocean and in some cases, such as 2015 when the rivers warmed into the 70s and stayed there for weeks, it can lead to significant mortality. That year, much of the Columbia and Snake river sockeye runs were wiped out by hot water.

Other sources of heating identified by the report include water entering from tributaries; regulated discharges, known as point sources, from things like factories or municipal wastewater treatment plants; and from increased air temperatures attributed to climate change.

But the dams play an outsized role.

“EPA’s analysis of the cumulative nonpoint source heat loading from dam impoundments shows that the dam impoundments have a greater temperature impact than point sources and tributaries,” according to the report.

Environmental groups hailed the report Tuesday as a needed step toward lowering temperatures and improving conditions for salmon and steelhead. Following the 2015 heat event that hammered sockeye, a coalition of groups including Columbia Riverkeeper, Snake River Waterkeeper and Idaho Rivers United went to court to force the EPA to finish writing the report that had been stalled for nearly two decades.

“We are pleased that it’s done and identifies the hot water problems on the Columbia and Snake rivers,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper.

The document is not prescriptive and it will largely be up to the states to determine how water quality problems identified in the report should be addressed. VandenHeuvel said breaching the four lower Snake River dams would help meet water quality standards as well as boost salmon and steelhead.

“The water temperatures in the Snake are so hot in the summer that I think dam removal is the best way to restore salmon and provide water cool enough for their survival,” he said.

That type of prescription or calls for more water to be spilled at dams troubles Kurt Miller, executive director of Northwest River Partners. Given that the Snake and Columbia rivers are often overheated when they enter Washington, he would like regulators in Oregon and Washington to reexamine their water quality standards.

“The states may have established water quality standards that are unattainable even if the lower Snake and mid-Columbia river dams were not in place,” he said. “It would be unfair to penalize the communities that rely on hydropower for river temperatures way beyond their control.”

The report will be available for public review and comment at www.epa.gov/columbiariver through July 21.

Lawmakers introduce bill to block Trump rule limiting scope of federal water protections

May 14, 2020

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure chair Rep. Peter DeFazio, of Oregon, and Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Rep. Grace Napolitano, of California, submitted a bill to block the Navigable Waters Protection Rule finalized in April.

The 1972 Clean Water Act made it illegal to discharge any pollutant into “waters of the United States,” unless a permit was obtained.

The exact definition of “waters of the United States” was contested in courts for decades.

The Obama administration attempted to clarify the rule by expanding the definition to include more water bodies that flow directly or indirectly, to navigable waters.

The Trump rule eliminated the 2015 rule and narrowed the definition to four types, leaving other waters under often more lenient state jurisdiction.

The bill’s authors said the Trump administration wrote the rule to benefit polluters at the expense of the health of people who depend on those waters.

“By removing critical protections at the behest of industry, Trump’s Dirty Water Rule will make streams and waterways more vulnerable to pollution, which is devastating for the 117 million Americans who rely on these waterways for drinking water,” said DeFazio.

More than a dozen leading environmental organizations have backed the bill, including Earthjustice, the League of Conservation Voters, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Sierra Club.

Source: https://www.indianaenvironmentalreporter.org/posts/lawmakers-introduce-bill-to-block-trump-rule-limiting-scope-of-federal-water-protections

New digital market opens for West’s most valuable resource: water

The market for water rights — often called the greatest asset in the West — has been patchy, complicated and expensive to access. A new program aims to change that.

A digital platform called Western Water Market debuted in February. It offers an online listing service where people can buy, sell or lease water rights. The online platform resembles the housing market listing service Zillow.

“It’s like Craigslist,” said Kristina Ribellia, founder of WWM, “but classier.”

Water experts and agricultural leaders say the platform is the first of its kind and could markedly impact how people manage water rights in the West.

“It’s really filling a gap — I might even call it a void or chasm,” said Chris Hyland, executive director of the Walla Walla Watershed Management Partnership, a Washington state program listed on Ribellia’s platform as a buyer.

The existing water market has no uniformity, experts say. It consists of word-of-mouth networks, sprawling databases and the occasional newspaper classified ad.

In Washington, the Department of Ecology maintains a partial list of water transactions on an Excel spreadsheet — which Kelsey Collins, statewide trust water coordinator for the department, said “leaves a big gap.”

Ribellia’s new platform is designed to be populated by subscribers paying $49 per month, including sellers, potential buyers and consultants or attorneys listing professional services.

Like housing market platforms, WWM doesn’t handle regulatory requirements, check the validity of rights or process final transactions; it simply offers previews and makes introductions.

“I can see how this could be useful,” said John Stuhlmiller, CEO of the Washington State Farm Bureau. “Knowing what’s out there is half the battle.”

Ribellia initiated the platform in Washington and gradually hopes to encompass the 17 western-most states.

After working for Washington Water Trust, a conservation nonprofit, for five years, Ribellia, frustrated by bureaucracy and what she viewed as an inept water rights market, created WWM.

Ribellia said she hopes the service will connect rights holders with professionals, give sellers more options, localize water, encourage private market growth and put power in the hands of ordinary landowners.

“I feel like the market has been reserved for the privileged,” she said, “those few who have the connections, resources and knowledge of how to buy and sell water rights. And I don’t think that’s how it should be.”

Attorneys say time will tell whether the market catches on, but it has potential because of the appetite for water.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand from people who want to acquire water rights,” said Bill Neve, a water rights consultant for Water Rights Solutions who also advertises on WWM. “The demand far outstrips the supply.”

Across the West, records show, there’s little water unclaimed.

In Washington state, according to the Ecology Department, the state’s water supply has been over-allocated; there are more rights than there is water.

The West operates under what’s called prior appropriation doctrine — “first in time, first in right” — meaning the older the rights, the higher the value.

In a drought, those with junior rights have their water turned off first.

These “interruptibles,” as Dan Haller, water rights consultant for Aspect Consulting, calls them, are often “chasing seniority” — seeking to buy senior rights.

In Oregon and Washington, any portion of water rights unused for five years can be lost, or relinquished. That prompts many farms to lease or temporarily donate rights so they aren’t relinquished.

Most large water transactions are between agricultural entities, said Haller. He estimates 10 to 30 “ag to ag” water right transactions, not including land purchases, take place annually in Washington.

But no one knows for sure. Water right transactions are notoriously hard to track. According to Collins of Ecology, farms are not required to report transactions to the state; reports are only mandated when a farmer proposes to change a water right, using it differently than what it was authorized for.

Farmers aren’t the only ones seeking water rights.

Worldwide, investors are buying water rights, building portfolios of “blue gold.”

In a changing climate, scientists predict less snowpack, unreliable rainfall and more droughts. Add to that growing urban populations and swelling developments, and experts say it’s clear why investors are aggressively pursuing water — which can be parked in water trusts for conservation purposes and sold later at greater profit.

Fall 2019, Washington farmers expressed concern when they learned Crown Columbia Water Resources, a Wall Street-backed firm, had been buying water rights from farms along Columbia River tributaries since 2017 and plans eventually to operate its own water market.

According to statements from the company’s lawyer, Mark Peterson, Crown intends to sell some of the water rights downstream to other areas.

“It’s caused a lot of angst,” said Hyland. “A lot of farmers worry that once the water leaves the basin, it’s never coming back.”

Ribellia said preventing speculation and consolidation of the market by investor-giants is one of her motivations for creating WWM. Her priority, she said, is keeping water local.

Water experts say Ribellia’s plan isn’t foolproof, because investors like Crown can still make offers. And WWM won’t restrict buyers from acquiring water rights from anywhere in the 17 states, softening the definition of “local.”

But Ribellia says the platform will provide local listings, and farmers approached by out-of-basin or out-of-state buyers will know they have local alternatives.

Experts predict water trusts and conservation groups, such as those seeking to secure in-stream flow for fish, will still have a place in the market with the new platform, but Ribellia said she believes “the private market can become the number one sector for restoring stream flow.”

An open water rights platform, however, makes some farmers jittery.

“More transparency doesn’t always work out in a farmer’s favor,” said Stuhlmiller of the Washington Farm Bureau.

“I’ve worked with a lot of clients who are very private,” said water consultant Neve.

He said WWM allows farmers to post anonymously, listing through a consultant who files on their behalf. The listing includes a map, but adds a layer of privacy by omitting the name.

“I don’t really see the privacy issue because you’re not going to be on there unless you’re choosing to be,” said Collins.

Farmers both crave and fear transparency around water rights, Stuhlmiller observed.

“I think what I’m doing is a bit edgy,” said Ribellia. “It makes everyone uncomfortable: agency staff, landowners. There will be farmers who never sell or lease, and that’s OK. I just hope I’m normalizing this and putting landowners in the drivers’ seats of the water market. I want farmers to call the shots.”

Source: https://www.capitalpress.com/ag_sectors/water/new-digital-market-opens-for-wests-most-valuable-resource-water/article_8b013720-7dbc-11ea-8141-9b9f026617ff.html

Satellite data boosts understanding of climate change’s effects on kelp

Tapping into 35 years of satellite imagery, researchers at Oregon State University have dramatically enlarged the database regarding how climate change is affecting kelps, near-shore seaweeds that provide food and shelter for fish and protect coastlines from wave damage.

And the Landsat pictures paved the way to some surprising findings: A summer of warm water isn’t automatically bad news for kelps, and large winter waves aren’t either.

The study was published in Ecology.

“Kelps are fundamentally cold-water species, thus climate change is a problem for them, and worldwide we’re losing a lot of them,” said the study’s corresponding author, Sara Hamilton, a marine biologist pursuing her Ph.D. at OSU. “We’re beginning to see evidence of that happening here on the Pacific coast of North America, especially Northern California.”

The Landsat program is a joint effort of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that has been collecting Earth surface data since 1975 but only recently has been used for kelp monitoring.

The OSU research was the first to use Landsat data to study bull kelp, large seaweeds that grow in “forests” that form canopies in shallow ocean water. There are about 30 genera of them, and while they look like plants, they’re actually heterokonts, related to algae.

“Taking technology from other fields and bringing it into the marine sciences to improve our work is really exciting,” Hamilton said. “A 35-year dataset in marine biology is really hard to find. It’s usually hard to do marine work – it’s expensive, you need highly trained divers, and it’s dangerous. But we need long-term data to understand climate change and how it impacts populations. This was an exponential increase in the amount of information available about kelp forests in Oregon.”

In 2014, a marine heat wave led to a boom in purple sea urchins whose grazing has been pummeling populations of Nereocystis luetkeana, commonly known as bull kelp, off the Northern California shore ever since.

“But we actually didn’t find evidence of loss in bull kelp populations post-2014 in Oregon even though we are right across the border,” Hamilton said. “Our findings challenge the picture that’s been making the rounds in the news and points to the need for more research, because we really don’t understand kelp very well.”

Off the Oregon Coast, most kelp grows in the southern one-third of the state, the majority of it spread among five distinct reefs.

Kelp data teased from decades of Landsat imagery show that canopy area can vary dramatically from year to year, and that long-term population trends vary from reef to reef. One reef, the Rogue, near Gold Beach, showed a greater population in 2018, the last year of the analysis, than at any point in the last 35 years.

“For the years we surveyed, three of the five reefs remained within historically normal population levels,” Hamilton said. “Another one has had low populations for the past 15 years, and the fifth has shifted to somewhat smaller, less variable populations over the last two decades.”

Past, extensive research on a perennial kelp species, Macrocystis pyrifera, has suggested that high waves in winter have a negative impact on kelp population, but the current study suggested the opposite for bull kelp, an annual.

“An association between bigger waves and more kelp is 100 percent outside the basic idea of what influences kelp,” Hamilton said. “Our study shows that if you change one species, change one geographic area, you get a whole new set of factors emerging.”

Hamilton takes pains to point out that while kelp forests can be dazzlingly beautiful, that’s not the main reason marine biologists are interested in them.

“We don’t study them because they’re pretty and we like diving in them, even though they are pretty and we do like diving in them,” she said. “Kelp forests are important to the ecosystem and to the human communities living on coastlines.”

Kelp forests provide ecosystem services and services to people living nearby, including nursery habitat for juvenile rockfish, urchin fisheries and kelp fisheries.

“People should have access to basic environmental resources that are important to them, and we need to know how these resources are changing and how those changes impact people, often vulnerable people,” Hamilton added.

Kirsten Grorud-Colvert and Bruce Menge in the OSU College of Science collaborated on this study, as did James Watson of the OSU College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and Tom Bell of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Bottled water war: Washington, other states seek to curtail firms in tapping local groundwater

OLYMPIA — Washington state, land of sprawling rainforests and glacier-fed rivers, might soon become the first in the nation to ban water bottling companies from tapping spring-fed sources.

The proposal is one of several efforts at the state and local level to fend off the fast-growing bottled water industry and protect local groundwater. Local activists throughout the country say bottling companies are taking their water virtually for free, depleting springs and aquifers, then packaging it in plastic bottles and shipping it elsewhere for sale.

“I was literally beyond shocked,” said Washington state Sen. Reuven Carlyle, who sponsored the bill to ban bottling companies from extracting groundwater.

“I was jolted to the core to realize the depth and breadth and magnitude of how they have lawyered up in these small towns to take advantage of water rights,” the Democrat said. “The fact that we have incredibly loose, if virtually nonexistent, policy guidelines around this is shocking and a categorical failure.”

Elsewhere, lawmakers in Michigan and Maine also have filed bills to restrict the bottling of groundwater or tax the industry. Local ballot measures have passed in Oregon and Montana to restrict the industry, although the zoning change in Montana’s Flathead County remains tied up in court.

“The Washington state bill is groundbreaking,” said Mary Grant, a water policy specialist with the environmental group Food & Water Watch. “As water scarcity is becoming a deeper crisis, you want to protect your local water supply so it goes for local purposes. (Bottled water) is not an industry that needs to exist.”

Although much of the controversy around the bottled water industry has concerned “bottled at the source” spring water sites, nearly two-thirds of the bottled water sold in the United States comes from municipal tap water, according to Food & Water Watch. The Washington state legislation would not keep companies from buying and reselling tap water.

Americans consumed nearly 14 billion gallons of bottled water in 2018, while sales reached $19 billion — more than doubling the industry’s size in 2004. The bottled water industry is expected to grow to more than $24 billion in the next three years, according to Beverage Industry magazine.

Industry leaders have opposed sweeping legislation that would cut off resources, pointing out the potential hit to local employment and the importance of bottled water in disaster relief.

“This legislation would prevent any community from having these jobs or having a project in their area,” said Brad Boswell, executive director of the Washington Beverage Association, who testified against the bill. “We think these issues are best dealt with on a project-by-project basis.”

The International Bottled Water Association defended the track record of its members in an emailed statement. The bill in Washington and other legislation to limit the industry “are based on the false premise that the bottled water industry is harming the environment,” wrote Jill Culora, the group’s vice president of communications.

“All IBWA members,” she wrote, “are good stewards of the environment. When a bottled water company decides to build a plant, it looks for a long-term, sustainable source of water and the ability to protect the land and environment around the source and bottling facility.”

Culora did not address specific examples of community claims that bottling companies have damaged their watersheds and aquifers.

When residents in Randle, Washington, learned of a proposed Crystal Geyser operation last year, some worried about a large industrial plant in their quiet, rural valley near Mount Rainier.

Many feared that the company’s plan to pump 400 gallons a minute from springs on the site would deplete the local aquifer and dry up their wells.

The worry turned to furor when a leaked email exposed the company’s plan to sue the nearby subdivision in response to neighbor opposition, then conduct an underground public relations campaign to gain support for the project.

“Pumping water out of the ground, putting it in plastic bottles and exporting it out of the state of Washington is not in the public interest,” said Craig Jasmer, a leader of the Lewis County Water Alliance, which organized to oppose the Randle plant and has pushed for the statewide ban.

Recent news increased the concerns: Last month, Crystal Geyser pleaded guilty to storing arsenic-contaminated wastewater at a California facility, and then illegally dumping the water into a sewer after being confronted by authorities. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2016, Crystal Geyser paid a timber company for access to a spring that had historically provided the water for the city of Weed, California, forcing the town to find a new water supply.

Local activists in California, Oregon, Michigan and Florida say they have been targeted by big bottlers that damage the environment and provide scant economic benefit.

Nestlé has drawn criticism for its bottling operation in California’s San Bernardino National Forest, which federal officials have concluded is “drying up” creeks.

″(The creeks) are visibly different where the water is extracted and where it’s not,” said Michael O’Heaney, executive director of the Story of Stuff Project, a California-based group that makes films about environmental issues.

During California’s drought, he said, “Nestlé wasn’t being asked to curtail its water (in)take at the same time as Californians were being asked to significantly reduce the amount of water they were using.”

Just across the Columbia River from Washington, the residents of Hood River County passed a ballot measure in 2016 to ban commercial water bottling after Nestlé announced plans to build a plant that would extract more than 100 million gallons a year.

Aurora del Val, who helped lead the campaign for the ballot measure, said Nestlé first made inroads with local officials, promising jobs for an area that had seen its economy suffer with the decline of the timber industry.

“This seemed like the golden ticket to having a boomtown again,” she said. “But the more educated people became, the more opposition there was in the town.”

In an emailed statement, Nestlé noted its contributions to state economies — one study showed it provided 900 jobs and had an economic impact of $250 million in Florida in 2018. The company also defended its environmental record, without addressing specific claims that its operations are damaging watersheds.

“We have a proven track record of successful long-term management of water resources in states where we operate,” Nestlé Waters North America spokesman Adam Gaber wrote. “It would make absolutely NO sense for Nestle Waters to invest millions of dollars into local operations just to deplete the natural resources on which our business relies.”

One of Nestlé’s projects is in Osceola Township, Michigan, where local officials are fighting the company’s plan to nearly double the groundwater it extracts from the area.

Locals say that nearby trout streams have turned into mud flats since Nestlé’s arrival, and jobs did not materialize when it chose to build its bottling plant miles away.

“Streams are flooding all over Michigan, except for Twin and Chippewa creeks, which are not,” said Peggy Case, president of the group Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation. “The city aquifer is down 14 feet now, and it’s not recharging. There are people with wells in the area that are starting to run dry. They no longer are as happy with Nestlé as they used to be.”

Even if the company’s operations had no environmental effect, Case said her group would still object.

“They are privatizing water,” she said, “and we are opposed to that.”

In a state where the Flint water crisis is still fresh in people’s minds, water resources are a charged issue, said state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, a Democrat. Rabhi is part of a group of lawmakers pushing a package of bills that would limit the bottled water industry.

Rabhi has filed a bill that would define water as a public trust, instead of a privately owned commodity. Another measure would prohibit shipping bottled water out of the Great Lakes watershed. A third bill would bolster the regulatory authority of the state Department of Natural Resources.

A representative for Absopure, a Michigan-based company that bottles spring water, did not respond to a request for comment. The Michigan Retailers Association said it was not taking a position on the bill, while the Michigan Soft Drink Association and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce did not respond to requests for comment.

In an emailed response, Nestlé said the Michigan bills unfairly “single out one industry, one type of water user, for such restrictions.” The company noted that water bottling accounts for less than 0.01 percent of water use in the state and said its Michigan operations employ 280 workers.

Opponents counter that the industry’s water use is wholly extractive, while other heavy users, such as agriculture, return much of the water they use to the watershed.

Carlyle’s bill in Washington has eight co-sponsors, all Democrats except for state Sen. John Braun, the Republican who represents the Randle community that battled Crystal Geyser. The bill moved through the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee. Backers are waiting to see whether it will be added to the Senate voting calendar.

Some lawmakers, however, have expressed misgivings about taking statewide action against a specific business.

This report is a product of Stateline, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Source: https://www.registerguard.com/news/20200218/bottled-water-war-washington-other-states-seek-to-curtail-firms-in-tapping-local-groundwater

Oregon to get $1.1M as part of EPA $2.2M drinking water program grant

SEATTLE — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $2.2 million grant for Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to help identify sources of lead in drinking water in schools and child-care facilities.

The funds are provided through EPA’s new drinking water grant program established by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act Voluntary Lead Testing in Schools and Child Care grant program.

“Ensuring access to clean drinking water and protecting children from exposure to lead are critically important to EPA,” EPA Region 10 Administrator Chris Hladick said Wednesday in a press release. “This funding will support our states’ efforts to keep children in schools and child care programs safe from the adverse health impacts of lead in drinking water.”

Alaska Department of Education and Early Development will use $111,000 to initiate a testing program for lead in drinking water at schools and child care facilities, prioritizing facilities serving children under 6-years old and in under-served and low-income populations.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality will use $285,000 to test for lead in drinking water, focused on facilities serving young children and in facilities that are older and more likely to contain lead plumbing.

The Oregon Department of Education will get $1.1 million to provide funding, training and technical assistance to schools and child care facilities to test for lead in drinking water. Under state laws enacted in 2017, all public schools and licensed child care facilities are required to test for lead in all water used for drinking or food preparation.

The Washington State Department of Health will use $723,000 to expand their program to conduct lead testing in child care facilities in addition to public schools. The state will test water fixtures used for drinking or cooking, prioritizing facilities serving children who are most vulnerable to lead exposure.

Source: https://www.registerguard.com/news/20200129/oregon-to-get-11m-as-part-of-epa-22m-drinking-water-program-grant

OREGON LAWMAKERS DIVIDED OVER EPA ROLLBACK OF WATER PROTECTIONS

Posted: Jan 23, 2020
KDRV.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two U.S. Congressmen representing parts of southern Oregon were quick to sound off Thursday following an announcement from the Trump administration that it would move ahead with rollbacks on Obama-era clean water protections.

Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the change on Thursday. During the Obama administration, the agency expanded protections of the “waters of the United States” (commonly referred to as WOTUS) to include smaller waterways within the purview of the Clean Water Act — broadening regulations to cover streams, wetlands, small lakes and rivers across the U.S.

The Trump administration said that this interpretation bred “confusion.” According to Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River), it enabled the EPA to potentially regulate waterways as trivial as drain ditches — causing uncertainty for ranchers and farmers.

“For years, farmers and ranchers across Oregon have expressed their concerns to me about the heavy-handed Obama-era definition of WOTUS,” said Walden. “They stressed that their intermittent stream or irrigation ditch would be subject to the burden of overreaching federal regulation.”

Walden’s office said that he was an early critic of the 2015 Obama-era ruling.

In a statement on Thursday, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) strongly disagreed, claiming that the rule change would gut the Clean Water Act and end protections for waterways that millions of people rely on for clean drinking water.

“This is an extraordinarily dark day for the waters of the United States of America, for our environment, for those 117 million Americans who depend upon it for their drinking water, an infinite amount of wildlife impacted, from migratory species to fisheries and others,” said DeFazio. “I am going to do everything I can, within the jurisdiction of my committee and the Clean Water Act, to stop this heinous action.”

The EPA says that the new interpretation, called the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” delivers on President Trump’s promise to protect the nation’s navigable waters from pollution while promoting economic growth across the country with a clear, “common-sense” approach.

“The EPA’s new definition of WOTUS will both protect our environment and our rural communities,” Walden said. “Today’s announcement is welcome news for rural Oregon. I applaud President Trump and his administration for listening to the concerns of America’s farmers and ranchers and delivering on the promise to revise WOTUS.”

According to the EPA, the new rule only enforces environmental regulations on four main categories of water: territorial seas and navigable waters, tributaries, certain lakes or ponds, and wetlands near other jurisdictional waters. It rules out regulations on any water formed by rainfall or groundwater, as well as ditches, prior croplands, watering ponds, and waste treatment systems.

“This is a tragedy and it’s going to leave tens of millions of Americans unable to trust their taps,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “This rule would provide the lowest level of clean water protection since the Clean Water Act was passed in the 70s. It’s absolutely staggering to think that at this time, when we still have millions of Americans that are suffering from dirty water that they can’t drink, that is unsafe, that we would repeal this level of basic protection for all Americans.”

In a draft commentary published in October, the EPA’s own Science Advisory Board came out in opposition to the proposed rule change, saying that it was “in conflict with established science  . . . and the objectives of the Clean Water Act.”

Source: https://www.kdrv.com/content/news/Oregon-lawmakers-divided-over-EPA-rollback-of-water-protections-567243451.html

Court orders EPA to write temperature control plans for Columbia, Snake

A federal appeals court has ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to finalize a long-overdue plan to lower water temperatures for endangered fish in the Columbia and Snake rivers.

The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is likely to intensify the ongoing debate over breaching four Lower Snake River dams in Eastern Washington to increase salmon and steelhead runs.

Environmental and commercial fishing groups sued the EPA in 2017 to protect Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead from dangerously high river temperatures. Water exceeding 68 degrees is considered particularly lethal for the fish, causing them to struggle migrating upstream and leaving them susceptible to disease.

The plaintiffs — including Columbia Riverkeeper, Snake River Waterkeeper, Idaho Rivers United, the Institute for Fisheries Resources and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations — highlighted the summer of 2015, when an estimated 250,000 Snake River sockeye salmon died before they could spawn.

Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, said the slack water reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams on the rivers are a major culprit when it comes to heating water.

“The reservoirs have created this hot water problem, and climate change is pushing it over the edge,” VandenHeuvel said. “We need solutions quickly, and they need to be big solutions.”

Under the Clean Water Act, states are required to identify and issue pollution controls for imperiled waterways. The standards — known as “Total Maximum Daily Load,” or abbreviated TMDL — can address high levels of specific pollutants, such as nitrogen, or conditions such as water temperature or turbidity.

Oregon and Washington reported in the mid-1990s that numerous segments of the Columbia and Snake rivers failed to meet temperature standards. In 2000, the states entered into an agreement with the EPA to produce a temperature plan for the rivers.

The agency published a draft TMDL in 2003. However, it was never finalized and no progress has been made by either the states or EPA since then.

A Seattle district judge ruled in 2018 that the EPA is required by law to issue the plan. The appeals court upheld that decision on Dec. 20, giving the agency 30 days.

“Because Washington and Oregon have conclusively refused to develop and issue a temperature TMDL for the Columbia and Snake Rivers, the EPA is obligated to act,” Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown wrote in her opinion for the appeals court. “The time has come — the EPA must do so now.”

A spokeswoman for the EPA said she the agency cannot comment on pending litigation.

The ruling also notes that water temperatures are projected to rise with increased human activity on the rivers, and that 65% of remaining salmon and steelhead populations face a high risk of extinction.

VandenHeuvel said the groups are looking for a “comprehensive, science-based plan that looks at all of the options,” including possible dam removal.

“There should be a serious analysis of removal of Snake River dams, due to their impact on hot water and salmon,” he said.

Nic Nelson, executive director of Idaho Rivers United, said hot water in the Lower Snake and Columbia rivers has been a year-in, year-out problem for endangered salmon.

“This victory will create more protections for endangered species that are an indelible part of our Northwest way of life, culture, economy and heritage,” Nelson said.

Coincidentally, the court’s water temperature ruling came out on the same day as a $750,000 study from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s office weighing the pros and cons of breaching Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams on the lower Snake River.

The dams not only generate electricity, but provide irrigation water and allow farmers to ship their crops via barges, as opposed to congested highways or railroads. Agriculture and industry groups have argued the cost and disruption to businesses and local communities from breaching dams would be significant.

A spokesman for the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, which represents ports, businesses and economic interests on the river, said the group is aware of the court ruling, but did not have further comment.

Source: https://www.capitalpress.com/ag_sectors/water/court-orders-epa-to-write-temperature-control-plans-for-columbia/article_546fbc56-2810-11ea-ab49-f7acc454b367.html