District Court Finds Columbia River Hatchery Violates Endangered Species Act

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In Native Fish Society v. National Marine Fisheries Service, No. 3:12-cv-00431, environmental groups challenged the operation of the Sandy Hatchery along the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon. Among other things, plaintiffs argued that operation of the hatchery violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by causing take of listed fish species, including the Lower Columbia River Chinook, Lower Columbia River coho, Columbia River chum, and Lower Columbia River steelhead. Plaintiffs alleged the hatchery causes take due to competition from hatchery fish, introduction of disease, and genetic introgression.

In its decision (pdf) issued January 16, 2014, the U.S District Court for the District of Oregon agreed, finding the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) failed to provide a reasoned analysis for its determination that continued operation of the hatchery would not jeopardize the listed species. The court also invalidated the incidental take statement issued for the hatchery, finding the methodologies used by NMFS to set the take limit and to determine the trigger for reconsultation were not supported by the record.

The court also held that NMFS violated the National Environmental Policy Act by approving hatchery genetic management plans for the hatchery without preparing an environmental impact statement.

The court ordered the parties to confer regarding remedies, including with respect to the 2014 release of hatchery smolts. The parties are scheduled to report back to the court tomorrow, January 22, 2014.