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Tribe, environmental groups sue Oregon agency over dam deal

July 26, 2019

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — A tribe and environmental groups have sued the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, looking to block the relicensing of three dams along the Idaho-Oregon border.

The Nez Perce Tribe and the groups Pacific Rivers and Idaho Rivers United filed separate lawsuits claiming Oregon’s water quality certification of the dams violates environmental regulations, The Lewiston Tribune reported Friday.

Regulators in the two states last month reached a water certification agreement, allowing Idaho Power to advance its effort to relicense the Hells Canyon Complex dams on the Snake River.

The utility, which serves about half a million customers in the two states, has been operating the dams on temporary federal licenses after its original licensed expired in 2005. The relicensing process requires the utility to get certificates from the states, saying the dams comply with the federal Clean Water Act.

Until recently, the two states have been at odds, with Oregon wanting the dams to be outfitted with equipment to allow salmon to migrate upriver. Idaho has opposed fish passage measures.

The new agreement does not include fish passage requirements but calls for the company to fund projects to improve aquatic habitat and reduce water temperatures on Snake River tributaries.

The lawsuits claim the agreement violates a federal law and an Oregon law that requires all dams to provide fish passage unless exempted.

“Compliance with water quality standards is not optional, and we must take action to preserve the integrity of this river system,” said Nic Nelson, executive director of Idaho Rivers United.

Jennifer Flynt, chief public information officer for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, declined to comment on the lawsuits.


Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com

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