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Commentaries and editorials

Corps of Engineers Must Comply with Clean-Water Law

by Editorial Board
Seattle Post-Intelligencer - August 18, 2000

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has informed the Environmental Protection Agency that the corps is not legally obliged to comply with the federal Clean Water Act -- especially not at the Snake River dams.

If that's true, the law must be changed.

The corps has informed the EPA that it does comply with federal water quality standards, but only "as a matter of policy, not as a legal requirement."

EPA Region 10 administrator Charles Findley isn't having any of that faulty reasoning, and rightly so. He's told the corps that the "EPA disagrees that the corps has no legal obligation to comply with applicable water-quality standards in operating the Snake River dams."

The EPA dinged the corps for its failure to address the water-quality problems caused by the operation of the four lower dams on the Snake River. EPA also complained of the corps' failure to include the costs of meeting the Clean Water Act standards in its analysis of salmon-recovery options.

Having the corps comply with water-quality laws that apply to everyone else is a no-brainer. In fact, it can be argued that it's even more vital for the corps, which by the very nature of its mission is engaged in projects that impact water quality all over the nation.

The corps' failure to deal with the cost of improving water quality at the Snake dams means that the corps' salmon-recovery analysis "could have the effect of seriously underrepresenting the costs of retaining dams and therefore overpricing the cost of dam removal," Findley wrote.

In other words: If the dams remain standing -- as the Clinton administration proposes they do for at least another 10 years -- it will cost big bucks to mitigate the damage they do to water quality and to temperature.

Surely those who oppose the dams' removal will be the first to spring into action to secure the funds needed to make them comply with the Clean Water Act.

Editorial Board
Corps of Engineers Must Comply with Clean-Water Law
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 18, 2000

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