SEATTLE, Wash. - Commercial and sport fishing groups have filed a
lawsuit to prompt the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) to revise
one of its water quality standards. It's a move they say would improve
salmon survival. The groups want more water spilled over the dams, to
boost the migrating fish over them safely. DOE has resisted, because
adding spill also would increase gases dissolved in the water, which
could create health problems for the fish.
Amanda Goodin, an attorney with Earthjustice, the group that
filed the suit, says the groups are asking Washington to adopt the same
standard as Oregon. And, it's not the first time they've requested this
"In response to one of our requests, they actually convened a whole team
to study this very question. In response, the state of Oregon went
ahead and changed their standard. But, the state of Washington refused
to do so and has since refused several additional requests."
Goodin says Washington's current standard for total dissolved gases
artificially limits the amount of water spilled over the dams, and
research shows more fish survive with higher spill rates.
"It's clear that it's really going to benefit endangered salmon; we also
think it's very clear that it's not going to harm any other aquatic
life in the Snake and Columbia rivers. We just don't think that there's
any reason at all not to change it."
She says by having different water quality standards, the two states are
also limiting what the federal government can do to improve river
conditions for salmon. But spilling more water also compromises the
dams' power output, so any decision is bound to be controversial.