Lawsuit Seeks To Keep Columbia & Snake Rivers Cold For Salmon

Feb 23, 2017

A lawsuit filed today by salmon advocates aims to reverse a trend of high summer water temperatures on the Snake and Columbia Rivers.

In 2015, drought and high temperatures in the Columbia River basin caused the premature death of an estimated quarter million spawning salmon. This was a wake-up call for environmental and fishing groups, says Kevin Lewis of Idaho Rivers United.

“It took us realizing that rising temperatures in the Snake and Columbia River were not going to be an occasional event. It was going to be a, more often than not, standard – basically due to climate change,” Lewis said. 

The groups want the court to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to issue warm water pollution standards for the rivers, something federal managers almost did back in 2003. If the lawsuit is successful, these standards could bolster the case for dam removal on the Snake River. That idea is opposed by farmers, ports, utilities, and others who benefit from dam-created shipping lanes and hydropower.

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