For years, NEDC has advocated for water quality compliance at Oregon’s many state-operated fish hatcheries. Without proper management, these hatcheries can discharge dangerously high temperatures and other forms of toxic pollution to the state’s most ecologically important rivers. This work took a significant step forward this year, as NEDC and our partners successfully challenged new water quality permits for two hatcheries on Oregon’s McKenzie River.

The McKenzie is home to several important native species, including threatened bull trout and Spring Chinook salmon, who rely on the river’s cold, clean water. Unfortunately, the Leaburg and McKenzie hatcheries have for years been discharging water to the McKenzie that is too warm for fish. Despite knowing this, Oregon DEQ issued new water quality Permits that effectively would have allowed these facilities to continue these harmful discharges many years into the future. 

This year NEDC and our allies The Conservation Angler and Willamette Riverkeeper challenged those new Permits. In November we got the great news: as a result of that lawsuit, DEQ has proposed to withdraw the unlawful Permits and has issued new draft Permits for public comment. The new Permits would forbid the hatcheries from discharging any heat to this sensitive aquatic ecosystem. NEDC will be monitoring this situation closely in the coming year, to ensure the new Permits are as protective as possible, and that these hatcheries comply with the new restrictions.

Thanks to Crag Law Center and the Law Office of Karl G. Anuta for their outstanding representation in this important case!

Photo credit Rick Obst