WildEarth Guardians

A Force for Nature

Select Page

Current work in wildlife, rivers, public lands, and climate

Press Releases

Green Groups Seek to Protect Willamette River Flows for Chinook Salmon and Steelhead

March 27, 2020
Marlies Wierenga, 503-278-0669, mwierenga@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Rivers   Chinook Salmon
#EndangeredSpeciesAct, #LivingRivers, #RethinkRivers, #StopExtinction
Portland, OR – WildEarth Guardians, WaterWatch of Oregon, and Northwest Environmental Defense Center, represented by attorneys at Advocates for the West, filed for a preliminary injunction to halt the adoption of a flawed water reallocation plan that could further harm threatened wild Spring Chinook salmon and winter steelhead in Oregon’s Willamette River basin. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) Willamette Basin Water Reallocation Plan divvies up water stored in reservoirs for the next 50 years, undermining the water needs of imperiled fish and bypassing Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation for the fish populations, currently underway.

The Corps, which maintains and operates 13 dams in the Willamette basin, is required under the ESA to operate those dams in a manner that does not jeopardize the survival and recovery of threatened species, including wild spring Chinook salmon and winter steelhead in the basin. The quantity and quality of water that is stored in the reservoirs and the timing of the water releases has enormous impact on fish survival.

“When a river contains less then 1% of historical numbers of a species, it’s unfathomable that a federal agency repeatedly acts to further their demise.” said Marlies Wierenga, the Pacific Northwest Conservation Manager of WildEarth Guardians. “The National Marine Fisheries Service said this water reallocation plan would jeopardize the existence of Chinook salmon and steelhead, yet the Corps ignores the law and plows ahead.”

The request for a preliminary injunction follows a lawsuit filed last week and prior lawsuits that these groups launched to save these imperiled fish. In March 2018, the Corps agreed to reinitiate ESA consultation for the salmon and steelhead populations in response to one suit. Now, the consultation process will be hindered and management options curtailed if the Corps’ water reallocation plan is approved.

“The Willamette River runs through the heart of Oregon and has supported people and fish for generations” said Ms. Wierenga. “The Corps can and should do better to recover these culturally important fish and support a living river.”