U.S. Water News Online
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Four conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), claiming the agency failed to adequately protect the John Day River from mining, grazing, and water diversions. The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Portland alleges numerous violations of the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and other environmental laws.
The BLM owns a substantial portion of the riverside lands in the Eastern Oregon drainage.
The John Day drainage remains a stronghold of the Columbia River Basin's wild chinook salmon runs, and the lawsuit claims the agency's management is leading to hotter and lower flows during summer when chinook and steelhead trout are in the river system.
"Wild salmon struggle through a river that is often hot and stagnant, due in part to how the BLM manages river water and public lands," said Pete Frost of the National Wildlife Federation.
In 1988, Congress designated three sections of the John Day River totaling nearly 250 miles -- as protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Jim Hancock, a district manager for the Bureau of Land Management, said his agency has yet to issue a plan detailing how the John Day will be managed under that the act. A draft plan was issued in 1993 and put on hold for several reasons, including the development of a broader regional plan for the Columbia River Basin.
Hancock said the river has improved significantly in recent years, and he has aerial photos showing improved vegetation along the river.
The lawsuit plaintiffs include the National Wildlife Federation, Native Fish Society, the Oregon Natural Desert Association, and the Northwest Rafter's Association. (AP)
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