NEDC protects and conserves the natural resources of the Pacific Northwest by enforcing environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, engaging with government agencies, and tracking federal and state actions in the region. NEDC serves as a watchdog of regulatory agencies and regulated entities and strives to identify and fill advocacy gaps that warrant attention.
Updated April 5, 2022
Willamette Dams Litigation
NEDC, along with our partners Native Fish Society and WildEarth Guardians, have secured a critically important victory for the Willamette River’s threatened salmon and steelhead populations. In September 2021, an Oregon judge issued a final order directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately undertake several measures at dams throughout the Willamette River basin. These operational changes will improve fish migration and water quality in Willamette River tributaries, and ultimately provide a needed lifeline for the basin’s iconic salmon and steelhead.
Cleaner Air Oregon
In 2018, Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission adopted a new program to address community concerns about exposure to air toxics. The Cleaner Air Oregon program is designed to assess the increased health risk from industrial facilities, and to set additional limits on toxic pollutants to protect vulnerable communities from potential harmful exposures. NEDC played a critical role in pushing for, and strengthening, the CAO program. And now, NEDC and our partners are working to ensure the program is implemented effectively. We partner with communities and air quality experts to actively participate in the permitting process for facilities “called in” to the program—efforts that have led to reduced emissions and health impacts in front line communities.
Clear Branch Dam
In 2021, NEDC and our partners secured a critical victory for Hood River basin bull trout. The Middle Fork Irrigation District is currently seeking re-licensing for operations at Clear Branch Dam, a structure built in 1969 which fragmented the basin’s bull trout population and resulted in increased water temperatures below the dam—ultimately putting the population in severe danger of extinction. As a result of NEDC’s advocacy, Oregon DEQ denied a necessary water quality certification for the project, and we are hopeful this decision will prompt a deeper discussion about how to protect and restore this important bull trout population.
Waldo Lake Outstanding Resource Waters
In early 2021, the state of Oregon designated Waldo Lake and Crater Lake as Outstanding Resource Waters. These designations were the result of a petition developed and submitted by NEDC students, and will ensure that these extraordinary waters, along with their ecological and recreational values, will be protected for future generations of Oregonians.
Industrial Stormwater Pollution
NEDC has worked for decades to protect Pacific Northwest waters from industrial stormwater pollution. This has included litigation to strengthen the permits regulating industrial polluters, including a 2018 lawsuit that ultimately led to Oregon adopting one of the stronger permits in the country. And when necessary, NEDC sues polluters to enforce permit conditions; these Clean Water Act “citizen suits” have resulted in significant upgrades in stormwater treatment systems across the state, reduced pollution in the region’s waters, and millions of dollars in funding for regional nonprofits to improve water quality.
A Just Transition for Oregon
NEDC has partnered with the Green Energy Institute and Neighbors for Clean Air for projects designed to push the City of Portland, and Oregon as a whole, to move beyond highly polluting industries and fossil fuels, and toward an ambitious and just environmental and energy transformation. This work focuses on reducing air toxics, diesel emissions, and greenhouse gases—all pollutants that disproportionately impact low-income and racially diverse communities.
Clean Water Act “Dredge and Fill” Permitting
NEDC diligently monitors applications for dredge and fill permits across the Pacific Northwest, to ensure that applicants seeing to discharge fill materials in the region’s waters comply with all state and federal requirements. Recent victories include permit denials for an expanded mining operation on sensitive aquatic habitat in Columbia County, and for proposed dredging activities to benefit jetboat operations at nine separate sites on the Rogue River.