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Snake Dams may Violate Water-Quality Standards

by Associated Press
Spokesman Review, March 26, 2000

Judge's ruling could bolster effort to breach dams, restore salmon

A preliminary ruling that four Snake River dams may violate the federal Clean Water Act could boost efforts to breach the dams to help restore salmon runs.

U.S. District Judge Helen Frye cited evidence that the dams, operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, could violate water-quality standards by increasing the river's temperature and dissolved gases.

But the judge also requested that more records be submitted before she makes a final ruling.

Army officials could not be reached for comment. The Corps of Engineers has denied that dam operations violate water-quality standards.

Conservationists said they were confident the final ruling would go their way. They predicted huge costs to bring the four dams into compliance with the Clean Water Act -- ranging from $460 million to $900 million.

"The court's order provides yet another reason for the government to seriously consider dam removal," said Nicole Cordan of the National Wildlife Federation, one of eight conservation groups that filed the lawsuit challenging dam operations.

The dams provide irrigation and hydroelectric power to the region, and proposals to breach them to help restore salmon runs have pitted conservationists, Indian tribes and sport fishermen against farmers, aluminum companies and other businesses.

The corps is set to make a recommendation later this year about whether the dams should be breached. Congress will make the final decision.

Associated Press
Snake Dams may Violate Water-Quality Standards
Spokesman Review, March 26, 2000

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