U.S. Government Sued for 17-Year Delay in Mandatory Protection of Endangered Fish in Idaho

Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Chinook Salmon (photo: Veriscope Productions)

An Oregon-based environmental group is suing the federal government for not taking action after 17 years to protect multiple fish species from harmful pollutants in Idaho waters.


Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA) sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service for not doing their part in the federal review of toxic standards developed by Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality in 1994.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did its part, approving the new standards in 1996. It was then up to the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to review them. Instead, the two agencies “did nothing,” according to Nina Bell, NWEA’s executive director.


“When government fails as colossally as it has in this instance to get the job done, citizens need to step in and fix the situation,” Bell said in a news release. “It’s not as if the federal fish and wildlife agencies just failed to complete their required paperwork. These agencies had already determined over a decade ago, back in 2002, that Idaho’s toxic rules were inadequate to protect threatened and endangered species.”


The new toxic standards applied to 23 pollutants, including DDT, PCBs, pentachlorophenol (PCP), chromium, nickel, silver, arsenic, cadmium, copper, cyanide, lead, zinc, mercury, selenium and others.


Species potentially impacted by the pollutants include the Snake River sockeye salmon, Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon, Snake River fall Chinook salmon, Snake River steelhead, five species of aquatic snails, bull trout and Kootenai River white sturgeon, according to the lawsuit.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Lazy USA Fails to Protect Salmon for 17 Years (by Philip Janquart, Courthouse News Service)

Lawsuit Filed to Compel 19-year-old Idaho Water Quality Standards for Toxics (Idaho State Journal)

Northwest Environmental Advocates v. National Marine Fisheries Service (U.S. District Court, Idaho) (pdf)

U.S. Fisheries Service Kills Sea Lions to Help Salmon Industry (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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