SALEM, Oregon (AP) – A federal judge has ordered the US Army Corps of Engineers to take immediate action to improve fish passage through dams in Oregon’s Willamette Basin.
Oregon Public Broadcasting Reports that in a final notice and order issued this week, U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez said the Corps had failed for years to provide adequate passage for endangered chinook salmon and rainbow trout in dams that it operates in the basin.
“As evidenced by the continuing decline of recorded species, the body’s inability to provide adequate passage for fish and mitigate water quality problems is causing substantial and irreparable damage to salmonids,” Hernandez wrote in the opinion.
The order comes after the court ruled in favor of three environmental organizations that sued the Corps and the National Marine Fisheries Service, arguing that the agencies were not doing their part to protect the species.
Laurie Rule is Senior Counsel at Advocates for the West, a non-profit environmental law firm that represented plaintiffs. She says the poor condition of the salmon and rainbow trout ranges this year underscores the importance of the judge’s order.
“It’s important because these fish are in very bad shape,” Rule said.
Chinook salmon and rainbow trout in the Upper Willamette River system are both listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Dams on the Willamette and its tributaries blocked access to spawning grounds for fish, contributing to the population decline.
The Corps said it would review the judge’s order to ensure compliance.