Court: EPA must address Snake, Columbia water temperatures

Lewiston Morning Tribune –

The Environmental Protection Agency must move forward with actions designed to address elevated water temperatures in the Snake and Columbia rivers, according to a ruling from the 9th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals.

In December, a three-judge panel of the court upheld a lower-court ruling that the agency must finish a long-stalled plan to address elevated water temperatures in the rivers that can rise to lethal levels for salmon and steelhead.

The agency then asked the court to reconsider. That request was denied earlier this week.

The origins of the case date back nearly 20 years when Oregon, Washington and Idaho struck a deal with the EPA in which the agency said it would lead the complicated effort to produce a plan to reduce summertime water temperatures.

Such plans, known as total maximum daily loads, are normally written by states. But because this one would have involved all three states, the federal government, Columbia Basin Native American tribes and Canada, the federal agency agreed to take the lead.

It produced a draft plan in 2003, but the process stalled soon after and the agency later argued it was the states’ responsibility to write the plan.

The stalemate dragged on for 17 years, until the environmental groups went to court.

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