Bloomberg Law
March 24, 2023, 4:24 PM

Army Corps Settles Environmental Suit About Columbia River Dams

Samantha Hawkins
Samantha Hawkins
Legal Reporter

The Army Corps of Engineers has to provide information about its pending EPA permit requests for dams that an environmental group say pollute the Columbia River in Oregon, according to a settlement agreement.

Columbia Riverkeeper alleged that the Dalles, John Day, and McNary Dams are releasing heated cooling water, oils, and greases into the river without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit in violation of the Clean Water Act.

The conservation group had already sued the Army Corps over pollution from eight dams, including the three at issue here, but agreed in a 2014 settlement agreement to not sue for seven years if the Corps agreed to apply for the required permits and take steps to mitigate the pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued permits for discharges to waters in Washington from most the dams, except for the three in this complaint. The group sued in 2021, and then the agency issued final NPDES permits for the three remaining dams in 2022. The group then claimed that two of the dams also discharge into Oregon—and those discharges aren’t authorized by permits.

Under the settlement agreement, approved by Chief Judge Stanley A. Bastian of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Washington Thursday, the corps has to respond to any requests from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality related to the pending permit applications. The agency also must update the ODEQ and Columbia Riverkeeper every six months on the status of each of the permit applications.

Consistent with the 2014 agreement, the corps must continue to monitor the dams’ release of oils and greases.

It must also pay Columbia Riverkeeper $80,000.

Kampmeier & Knutsen PLLC represents Columbia Riverkeeper, which also represents itself.

The case is Columbia Riverkeeper v. Army Corps of Eng’rs, E.D. Wash., No. 4:21-cv-05152, 3/23/23.

To contact the reporter on this story: Samantha Hawkins at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at; Brian Flood at

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