U.S. Water News Online
LEWISTON, Idaho -- Frustrated over a two year delay in
issuing a permit to Potlatch Corp. for its daily discharge of
wastewater in the Snake River, three environmental groups have filed
a lawsuit against several federal agencies.
The Idaho Conservation League and Idaho Rivers United as well as
the Spokane-based Lands Council filed the lawsuit in Seattle.
The environmentalists claim the National Marine Fisheries Service
and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have moved too slowly in their
mandated consultations with the Environmental Protection Agency
regarding a new waste water discharge permit for the company's mill
``I think the Environmental Protection Agency has tried to do the
right thing here, but for some reason National Marine Fisheries and
the Fish and Wildlife Service have really dropped the ball,'' said
Bill Sedivy of Idaho Rivers United. ``It's kind of been one excuse
after another for not having this finished.''
The Potlatch mill discharges up to 40 million gallons of treated
waste water into the Snake River near its confluence with the
Clearwater River each day. The water can be as warm as 92 degrees.
The company's permit expired in 1997. In 1999 the environmental
groups sued the EPA, saying the agency failed to meet requirements of
the Endangered Species Act, to ensure the waste water was not harming
A year later the groups agreed to shelve their lawsuit when
Environmental Protection Agency officials began work on a new permit.
A draft of that permit set a strict temperature standard for the
company that would limit the temperature of summer time discharges to
Potlatch officials said the new standard would require them to
build a chilling plant to cool the water during and estimated the
cost of such a plant at $25 million.
The draft was sent to officials at the federal fisheries services
nearly two years ago, where it has languished since.
The agencies are required to study the permit and decide if it is
adequate to protect the listed fish species. Officials from both
agencies said they did not know when the consultation would be
Mike Bussell, deputy director of the Environmental Protection
Agency's office of water in Seattle, said his agency has been working
with the fisheries services to speed the process and is anxious to
complete the permit.
Bussell also said a reworking of Idaho's water quality standards
could be slowing the process. The state is in the process of issuing
new water quality standards for temperature that would take into
account natural conditions that cause some standards to be exceeded.
The suit asks Federal Judge John C. Coughenour to find the federal
agencies in violation of the Endangered Species Act and to order them
to complete the consultations within 30 days of that finding.
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