Renewable energy | Ecotrope

Court: Washington can keep dissolved gas limit

Ecotrope | May 20, 2011 8:35 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:38 p.m.

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I was just talking about this case – a challenge from salmon advocates to the state of Washington’s rule for how much total dissolved gas is allowed downstream from dams. The court sided with the state – confirming the current limit to how much water can legally be spilled over dams to scale back hydropower generation and free up space on the grid for wind energy. It’s of particular importance this year because of the record spring runoff coming down through the Columbia Basin.

This news of the court’s decision came via a press release from Save our Wild Salmon (so it doesn’t include the state or federal perspective on the issue):

“Olympia, WA – Today, May 20th, a Washington Superior Court judge ruled against salmon fishermen, businesses, and advocates in a lawsuit looking to ensure that Washington’s water quality standards protect salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers. The ruling comes after a series of petitions to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) to heed the best available science and revise Washington’s existing so-called Total Dissolved Gas (TDG) limits to assist young salmon making their journey to the sea. The Court deferred to Ecology’s decision and declined to order the agency to change its Clean Water Act standards. …

… This revision in the dissolved gas standard would have brought Washington’s Clean Water Act standards in the Columbia and Snake rivers in line with salmon science in the Basin and would have allowed for more spill at the dams.  However, the court’s decision means – at least for the short-term — that salmon and steelhead will have a harder migration past these dams.  Ecology’s refusal to make this standard more protective is a missed opportunity to ensure that up to 9% more salmon and steelhead survive their trip to the ocean.

Says Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda in response to the ruling, “It’s unfortunate that we’re arguing with Ecology about this when every fisheries manager in the region agrees that making the standard more protective is necessary to help endangered salmon.  We’ll be reviewing this decision closely to consider an appeal because it’s simply too important for our businesses and for salmon in the region.”

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